by Emmanuel Joseph
Barbados’ dairy industry has been dealt a major financial blow that could result in some workers being placed on the breadline.
Investigations by Barbados TODAY this afternoon revealed that the Pine Hill Dairy and milk farmers, both of which were planning to expand their supplies, have suffered a significant set back as a result of the School Meals Department ceasing any further purchase of the commodity from the PHD.
Director of the Pine Hill Dairy, Richard Cozier told this newspaper the company had been removed from the department’s list of food suppliers which he said meant a loss of between 125,000 and 140,000 kilogrammes of milk per year or about three quarters of a million dollars in revenue.
The PHD top executive said the department’s decision to stop buying the product represented three per cent of the farmers’ supply to the dairy or about 1,200 cases per month.
“We were actually planning to expand into other schools,” he noted, adding that further details of this measure would have to be acquired from the School Meals Department.
As far as the farmers were concerned, their spokesman described the latest development as terrible news.
President of the Dairy and Beef Producers Association of Barbados, Brian Allen told Barbados TODAY that “a few weeks ago” the sector held talks with the Ministry of Agriculture aimed at increasing milk supplies.
“The School Meals (Department) has cut milk 100 per cent. The Pine Hill Dairy has called an emergency meeting with the farmers for tomorrow. I don’t know exactly what they will tell us, but I suspect our quotas may be further cut,” Allen stated.
The farmers association head said the dairy had assured them there would be no additional reduction in milk quotas this year, but he felt that might now be reversed.
He pointed out that business had started to settle down and he rehired staff who were sent home when the quota was previously cut.
“I might have to do that again (layoff) and I believe others in the industry may do the same,” Allen disclosed.
Milk quotas were cut by 25 per cent last September, the association’s president recalled.
“We were hoping to increase the volume to schools. Now this is terrible news that our supplies to the dairy might be reduced; and the import substitutions which are ‘killing us,” he lamented.
Allen said the PHD did not having many options now, considering that it had to get rid of its stock.
He revealed that the dairy, which normally tendered for the School Meals Department’s milk supplies through SBI Distributions, was no longer being allowed to tender.
The farmer also noted the money allocated to the department had been cut back and the industry had become a casualty. [email protected]