The island’s sole milk processing plant has put a plan to the Barbados Government that it believes would boost the company’s ability to expand exports to a wider Caribbean market.
Director of Pine Hill Dairy and Chief Executive Officer of parent company, Banks Holdings Limited, Richard Cozier, said this afternoon the PHD’s proposal was seeking industry- wide support from the Government, which would allow it to make inroads into the highly-competitive Trinidad and Tobago market, for example.
Cozier noted that earlier issues with exporting to Trinidad had to do with labelling of milk and juice.
“Those are largely resolved in so far as we sought, and got a period of transition to make our labelling compliant. That process is underway,” he observed. “The new products that came out like the two per cent lactose free milk will have the new requirements to be compliant with Trinidad incorporated in them; and over the next couple of months, you will see further roll outs as new packaging comes into being.”
He reasoned that the ability to make inroads into the Trinidad market was largely going to be the PHD’s ability to get a price that the market there, is receptive to.
“That is a very, very cost-sensitive market. They don’t have the duty structures and the cost of operating that we have here; and they have other … incentives there that we can’t participate in. Their cost of energy is very low, their cost of labour is comparatively low and so it’s always going to be a challenge as to how big an impact we will make there,” asserted the chief executive officer.
“We have a plan before Government for consideration that would allow us to be able to be an active player, not just in Trinidad, but in Jamaica, Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean in a meaningful way. It (the plan) really deals with industry wide support, … The farm gate price in Barbados, is perhaps the highest in the world, $2.60 per kilogramme. And that’s not an indictment on the farmers; it really is a reflection that they do not participation in any subsidy or financial incentives directly.”
He suggested that, without subsidies, the prices of many things consumers and producers took for granted, would have to be significantly higher, “if you pay the full economic price for it; and that’s the foundation of the proposal we have before Government… Put us on the similar footing as those in the bigger countries who we import from”.
The subsidies were also useful for food security, Cozier added.
“When you look at local production of milk, farm gate milk, it is probably the one element in our food chain, that all the money stays here. There is very little imported input to deliver fresh milk to the consumer,” he pointed out.
Cozier also said he was pleased to report that the BHL had been able to hold onto jobs during the past year, in light of the economic down turn.
“Our brands usually fall into the category that are described as recession-resistant. When there is a recession, people would still drink. People would go out and celebrate or commiserate.” Cozier announced, too, that the new Banks Brewery plant had made a substantial difference, in that the cost of operations had significantly dropped.
“At the old facility with the old technology used there, we took about 16 litres of water to make one litre of beer. Currently we are at about eight litres of water to one litre of beer, and we’re still not happy there, we want to go down to six,” declared the CEO. (EJ)