Barbados is being used as a “dumping ground” for cheap milk import substitutes and Government’s hands are tied in stopping the influx through commercial policies. That was the position taken this morning by Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick.
Responding to reporters’ questions at the end of an extensive tour of the Pine Hill Dairy processing plant in the Pine, St. Michael, Estwick said government can no longer impose any form of restrictions on the many different brands of milk coming into the country, a state of affairs which the President of the Dairy and Beef Producers Association of Barbados, Brian Allen recently suggested was “killing” the local industry.
“Prior to signing onto the WTO rules, you could introduce a licensing regime, you could use commercial policy, you could use a quota system, in order to restrict imports and so on. But once we signed on, that is all gone,” he reasoned.
“So as a result of that,” noted the minister of food, “we are essentially being ‘dumped on’; and as a result of that, the vast increase in the amount of, and types of products are now available in Barbados. That is trade liberalisation.”
He was of the view that as a small developing country, that is what happens, “once you become penetrated culturally first, and then secondarily you become penetrated in terms of the products that come thereafter.
“Barbados is now facing that reality that trade liberalisation is here, and as a result, milk products, milk substitutes, variation of milk products are going to come through the [sea] port and the airport; and what we have to do is [realise] that we cannot stop it by introducing commercial policy,” the government minister insisted.
Both Estwick and Director of the Pine Hill Dairy, Richard Cozier agreed that a drop in consumption of local fresh milk by Barbadians was the main reason the dairy had been stuck with a glut of produce causing a domino effect that has been adversely impacting the supply of milk by farmers.
They also explained that Barbadians were not buying as much local milk – and juices – as before because of price, and the fact that they had wider options that included cheaper imported brands.
Estwick pointed out, too, that Barbados could not compete with the foreign milk which are subsidised, in that it did not have the capacity to do so.
However, the minister of agriculture told the PHD top brass that the government would do all in its power to ensure the survival of the company and industry as a whole.
He disclosed that officials of his ministry were working feverishly on the establishment of a Dairy Control Board, which would have oversight in determining price and quotas for the local sector.
Estwick said legislation was being prepared to give the board legal teeth and standing. (EJ)