We feel like we are being milked!
That was the general reaction of dairy farmers today on a “sprat” they said was thrown at them ahead of the general elections last February.
According to one farmer, while they were having discussions with officials of the Ministry of Agriculture on possible relief from the many challenges they said were driving them out of business, it was “thrown across the table” that the Government of China had offered to provide the country with a “fresh milk processing plant”.
Today, however, from one end of the country to the others, persons involved in dairy farming said they were still trying to find out if there had been any news since the initial “announcement”.
One farmer, while noting that he had cut production and was still struggling, with the Pine Hill Dairy “constantly telling us to keep our production to a minimum”, said the provision of a fresh milk plant would be a blessing.
“Don’t let anybody fool you,” he said. “Barbadians will buy fresh milk, as opposed to what the PHD is now producing. Just look at what is happening, a couple of the smaller farmers have decided to get together and market their own fresh milk, and from all I can see it is selling.
“The problem is that that can’t work for a fellow producing 1,000 kilogrammes of milk every day. That plant from the Chinese just might be the saviour, but the problem is we can’t hear a thing from Government.”
Another farmer recalled that it was first mooted while they were having a meeting, but no details were given then and “not a word has been heard about it since”.
“My understanding is that it was to be a processing plant given by the Government of China to the Government of Barbados, from which the farmers would benefit, but that is as much as I have heard.”
Not even Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, and Member of Parliament, James Paul, could say more than that he too had “heard about the Chinese offering Government a milk plant”.
“There has been talk about assistance, but I have seen nothing on paper to confirm this,” Paul told Barbados TODAY.
Meanwhile, some farmers who spoke to Barbados TODAY said the future of the dairy industry now appeared very tentative with consumption not growing, despite a recent drop in retail prices.
“We have our problems with the Pine Hill Diary, but the fact of the matter is that they too are struggling and unless we are prepare to make some changes the industry will go nowhere,” one farmer said.
Another explained that while he had not reduced the number of cows on his farm he had delayed breeding in order to control milk production.
“But that will have serious implications for future production, and in any event, while I may not milk a particular set of cows, I still have to feed them, so it is not a sustainable approach,” the rural farmer added.