The Barbados Egg and Poultry Producers Association (BEPPA) is warning that the survival of the industry is at a crossroads and will be under serious threat if the body representing hotels does not sign on to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the agriculture industry.
Pig farmers, dairy farmers and the fruit and vegetable growers are also sounding a similar alarm, saying that the situation could be disastrous for them as well.
BEPPA president Carlyle Brathwaite suggested today that the MOU, that the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) and the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) have still not concluded, would make or break the egg and poultry farmers.
The agreement, which the BAS is insisting should be a non-negotiable condition of accessing concessions, stipulates, among other things, that hoteliers first source products locally before importing produce.
Speaking at a press conference where BAS chief executive officer James Paul claimed that the BHTA was resisting the MOU, Brathwaite said if they did not reach agreement and produce was imported, it would be a big blow to farmers.
“Poultry imports will destroy the industry and throw many people out of work. We have a situation where the hotels have been one of our major markets and if we do not have them as a market the industry will collapse,” he said.
“The withdrawal of this market will affect as many as 6,400 persons. I would beseech the hotels to take this opportunity to sign off on the MOU so that we can maintain a standard with them. We have some of the best chicken not only in Barbados but throughout the region.”
President of the Barbados Dairy and Beef Producers’ Association, Brian Allan, made a similar plea.
He said dairy farmers were still operating with reduced quotas that were cut by 25 per cent in mid-2012 and they could not take another hit.
“To lose the additional sales during the tourist season, on top of our reduced quota cuts, would be disastrous for the industry. We are barely holding on now. Uncertainty is the worst thing for the dairy industry. If we lose milk sales to hotels there will be a very bad time for the industry,” he said.
The CEO of the BAS has warned authorities against giving in to any pressure from the BHTA to allow its members to get concessions without signing the MOU.
Sinckler had indicated at a general meeting of BHTA earlier this month that local hotels would have access to concessions similar to those given to Jamaican hotel chain Sandals, but under several conditions. He had indicated that one condition included signing the MOU, but in response to concerns raised by BHTA president Sunil Chatrani, he said that while it was best for the parties to sign the memorandum, he would still allow the concessions to be accessed if it was not.
Paul said it appeared that “the BHTA is prepared to go on this alone”.
“It seems as if the BHTA would disregard the interests of the other sectors and try to obtain concessions without implementing the measures we agreed to in the MOU and that is really the concern. The point I want to emphasize on this matter is the extent of the impact that the failure, on the part of the BHTA, to sign on to these concessions would have on the productive sectors,” he said.
“We have seen a concerted attempt on the part of the BHTA to force the issue without regard to the fact that they sat down some months ago and crafted an MOU. There were some safety measures put in place to prevent such a catastrophe occurring that would damage the various sectors.
“We can see a clear attempt on the part of the BHTA to move away from the MOU. That really drives our concern. We make a special appeal to policymakers: do not give in to the pressures that we see being exercised by the BHTA. We cannot have a Barbados in which one sector seems to think that it should be given all to the detriment of the other sectors. There must be some balance in respect of the economic circumstances that each sector faces,” Paul added.
In pleading the case for members of the Barbados Pig Farmers’ Association, Woodville Alleyne-Jones said herds were growing and good meat was being produced.
“Since we have spent so much time and energy to get to a point where we are producing proper meat, it would be very disheartening to find that we cannot get the meat sold,” he said.
Meanwhile, president of the Barbados Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, Peter Chase said: “Today is a sad day for me. My mandate is simple: to tell the BHTA we need the MOU signed. We produce the best quality vegetables. What is going to happen to our farms?”
“We need to work hand in hand with the BHTA as well as the Barbados Manufacturers Association,” he added.
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