by Shawn Cumberbatch
Imported chicken has Barbadian poultry farmers in a pickle.
Very-reliable sources told Barbados TODAY that in the face of potentially substantial financial losses from foreign competition, these producers had lodged an official complaint with the Ministries of Agriculture, Industry, Small Business and Rural Development.
A Government official involved in finding a resolution to the issue also said a paper recommending an increase in the duties on imported chicken would be taken to Cabinet.
The difficulties were confirmed by Barbados Agricultual Society Chief Executive Officer James Paul. He said “competition” from subsidised foreign chicken was the primary cause of a decline in local chicken production for the majority of this year.
Barbados is self sufficient in poultry, but despite this, the official said, the product was still being imported.
Newly available figures showed that between January and June this year chicken production was an estimated 5,091.4 thousand kilogrammes, a big 14,057.5 thousand kilogrammes decrease when compared to the same period last year.
“We have a situation which we have spoken to the Ministry of Agriculture about, where there has been an increase in processed chicken wings coming into this country,” the BAS boss said.
“We have asked for an increase in the applied tariff. The bound tariff rate is 184 per cent, but by some strange coincidence I would say we have a situation where that poultry is coming into this country at a rate of around 20 per cent.
“This is unacceptable, it is putting pressure on local producers of poultry and what is happening is that imported chicken is unfairly competing, and this is cheap subsidised chicken coming in from the US,” he noted.
Paul said the Americans had a big advantage over their smaller and more vulnerable Barbadian counterparts, in that the US chicken producers benefitted from an export subsidy.
“So what is happening really is that it is competing in an area which has been traditionally occupied by our local poultry producers, it is causing problems and I think really that we have to look to see the extent to which we can increase the applied tariff back up to the 184 per cent,” the official said.
Another Government official who spoke to Barbados TODAY on the matter said the Ministry of Agriculture had indicated it was willing to help the Barbadian poultry farmers.
They explained, however, that any attempt to increase the tariff rate could be problematic following an unrelated Caribbean Court of Justice decision ruling out such action.
The data on livestock production showed that while the poultry sector suffered declines, there were increases in pork, milk and egg production during the first half of the year.
Between January and June there was an estimated 19.5 per cent increase in pork production, and “Pork production was estimated at 1,212.4 thousand kilogrammes.
Milk production increased by one thousand kilogrammes more than in 2011, and egg production increased by 462.6 kilogrammes in the same period. [email protected]