by Emmanuel Joseph
The recent problems that pushed the local dairy industry to the brink of collapse, have now been resolved and farmers and the main processing company are jumping for joy.
Following the intervention of Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, the Cabinet has approved a two-year financial package, the value of which is still being fine-tuned, that will eliminate the backlog of milk in stock at the Pine Hill Dairy, resume supplies of the original quota of milk to the School Meals Programme and open new areas for the sale of the commodity by the PHD.
This morning, Estwick met with the top brass of the dairy and farmers’ representatives to deliver the good news. At a news briefing afterwards, an excited Director of the PHD, Richard Cozier, told reporters the package would also include a “substantial” drop in the price of milk to Barbadian consumers.
Decreased local consumption had forced the dairy to hold excess milk in stock for some time now, resulting in heavy financial losses and a recent decision to layoff staff and institute a week-on, week-off shut down of the processing plant.
But Cozier announced this afternoon that with this latest Government rescue plan, the company had decided to scrap those measures.
“At that meeting, Dr. Estwick gave the commitment of the Government to provide some assistance for the industry to move forward in so far as dealing with the backlog or the excess milk that Pine Hill has, but also with dealing, going forward, with some of the issues that came to the top of matter,” the dairy’s executive stated.
“He confirmed that the School Meals Department will take the amount of milk that they have taken in the past. The information relative to the School Meals Programme, not including Pine Hill milk has now been resolved. They will take milk for their programme to the extend that they took last year.”
“He also brought to the table some new proposals from the Government to deal with what is seen as a means of getting the volume of milk consumption up. Certain welfare programmes that the Government subscribes to in terms of food vouchers for those in need will be restructured so that there will be a component that will include fresh milk. The breakfast feeding programme undertaken by the YMCA will also be restructured to include local fresh milk,” Cozier disclosed.
“Those are seen as positives by us and by the farmers themselves. Anything that encourages consumption is to be applauded. The dairy official announced, too, that the minister also offered the offices of the Government Information Service to get the message out to the public regarding the health benefits of local milk and to tackle certain misconceptions of the commodity.
“We’ve had the meeting today with our staff to give them the good news. We’ve also passed on to the farmers the good news that we will be cancelling our intentions of going on a week-on, week-off [regime]. So collections from the farmers will continue as the programme develops.
“We still have to go back to the minister and sit down and discuss the mechanics of how the package will be applied over the next 10 weeks or so; but we take him at his word. He has never let us down in that respect; and we hope to be able to report to the public at large the specifics of if before the close of next week by which time we will have the actual numbers and how it will redound to the benefit of consumer.
“But safe to say, there would be a price adjustment … downward. We just don’t know yet how deep that price adjustment will be,” declared Cozier.
He assured though, that the price reduction would be more substantial than in the past. The dairy director also said he would need to meet with the farmers shortly to work out a plan to avoid a recurrence of this situation. He noted, too, that the nature of any future adjustments to the existing milk quota from farmers would be determined by the true benefits of the Government package.
In response, President of the Dairy and Beef Producers Association of Barbados, Brian Allen, told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, the farmers were extremely happy with the Government initiative. Allen even went further to say, he was surprised by what the minister was able to provide.
He noted that Estwick did plenty of research on the issue and identified the imported almond milk substitute as “the killer” of the industry. firstname.lastname@example.org