St James South MP Kerrie Symmonds has called on the Government to act energetically and with urgency to protect the interests of Roberts Manufacturing Co. Ltd, a major employer in Barbados.
Symmonds made this call today after he and Opposition Leader Mia Mottley had engaged in their weekly “rubbing of shoulders” this time at Lower Estate in St Michael.
The Opposition member said: “What we have seen today is one of Barbados’ larger manufacturer engaged in vegetable oil production and margarine at a level, which is large-scale in terms of . . . volume of sales somewhere in the vicinity of $18 million in margarine and $15 million in vegetable oil. Sixty-eight percent of that production is going into the export market.
“The concern that we must express is that a major manufacturer of this nature in Barbados is now confronted with a 78 per cent loss of market share in the Eastern Caribbean. This oviously has implications for the 160-odd workers that the company employs; and unless it is seriously addressed it also will have continuing implications for freighters and other individuals who derive a living by way of association with Roberts Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
“What we realized is that there is a serious problem of competing products of similar nature being sold in the CARICOM region to compete with the vegetable oil being produced by Roberts.
The product that is coming from Argentina and being sold in the Caribbean region in an anti-competitive way is having serious consequences for our local product,” Symmonds added.
He suggested that the Freundel Stuart administration should act in an energetic and urgent manner on behalf of the company at the Conference For Trade and Economic Development, which is a meeting of the region’s trade and economic ministers.
Addressing the issue of the poultry industry, Symmonds said: “There is also the issue of the poultry side of this business. Pinnacle Feeds Limited is a major producer for all of Barbados’ chicken and poultry producers. One of our concerns that we have to understand today are the linkages between Pinnacle Feeds and some of the poultry producers.
“What we are deeply concerned about is the ability of a third country, I mean outside of Barbados and CARICOM, for example, the USA, dumping highly subsidised poultry products on the region’s market. This has to be seriously addressed.”
Meanwhile, managing director of Roberts Manufacturing Co. Ltd, David Foster, reminded Barbadians that in 2014 the company would be celebrating its 70th year in business.
Noting that the company was a large-volume producer manufacturing about 5,000 tons of feed per month, 350 tons of shortening and margarine, and 300 tons of vegetable oil, it was necessary that it maintained it market share in the region and beyond.
“Critical for Roberts to stay in business is our export market. We see challenges ahead in terms of our vegetable oil. We are reasonably sure that a lot of the vegetable oil coming into the region is heavily subsidized. The problem also arises with imported chicken. We know this is heavily subsidized as well.
“The challenge will always be there because we are a high-priced producer and our volumes are nowhere [near] those of the USA. However, we know that when we buy locally produced poultry products they are not fed antibiotics and growth hormones.” (NC)