The impasse between dairy farmers and the Pine Hill Dairy over the company’s proposal to cut milk quotas by 43 per cent from January 1, seems headed for the law courts.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul told a news conference this afternoon that the BAS would lead efforts on behalf of farmers, to take the matter to court if the PHD did not back down from its proposed cut.
Paul, who was joined at the news conference by a group of dairy farmers that included Sir Charles Williams and the President of the Dairy and Beef Producers Association, Brian Allen, said another meeting was expected to be held with the dairy to try to bring closure to the dispute.
He pointed out that the quota, which was now under threat, would put the farmers, already weighted down by increasing operational costs, in jeopardy.
Paul insisted that, the cutting of the quota, if allowed to be implemented, would force the closure of the dairy industry. However, the president of the dairy and beef producers association, expressed even more concern in his remarks.
Allen said that all farmers who exceeded their quota by January 15, would have to start literally dumping milk down the drain, while at the same time having to pay wages, pay electricity bills and other costs.
“Farmers are slaughtering cows weekly to pay wages. No way can we avoid sending home workers. We can’t avoid layoffs,” he warned.
He revealed that the reason the PHD was proposing cuts, was because it was trying to get rid of 160,000 litres of milk stockpiled over the next few months. The dairy farmers spokesman asserted that the producers now had to pay for the company’s mistake of allowing its stock to accumulate, where it had first, to clear that stock.
He and the other farmers agreed that they were caught by surprise by the dairy’s “unilateral” decision to reduce quotas, considering that up to July this year, they were being told to increase production.
They are asking, what happened between January this year and July, he saud.
Dairy farmer Jean Marc Cozier said he sacrificed his own good marketing efforts and supplies to supermarkets, since he had no quota, to fullfill suggestions by the PHD to enter into a milk production and supply arrangement.
Cozier complained that even after following the dairy’s instructions to stop supplying supermarkets and provide the PHD only and import additional cows, he received a letter a couple days ago, telling him it would cease taking milk from him.
The angry farmer said if it took hundreds of thousands of dollars more, he would be taking the dairy to court. The farmers are accusing the dairy of bad management by causing them to suffer for its own failings. (EJ)†††††††