Having experienced a “boom year” this year, dairy farmers fear they may not be able to keep up with rising demand in 2016.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul said while the milk business has done the body good so far, Barbados faces the prospects of not having enough locally-produced milk to supply the Pine Hill Dairy (PHD) next year.
And Paul told Barbados TODAY his organization might be forced to import pregnant cows as a short-term solution.
“We have seen this year in terms of Pine Hill Dairy, that farmers have been able to get milk sold on the market . . . as a matter of fact, this has been a boom year for the dairy industry . . . and [we] face the prospects next year of not having enough milk to supply dairy,” the BAS boss said.
“What we are looking to do of course, we are looking to facilitate the importation of in-calf heifers to increase the milk supply in the short-term. So certainly this is something that we want to do,” he told Barbados TODAY, adding that at this late stage it did not make sense breeding the heifers here.
“What we are going to try to do is bring in heifers that are as near to birth as possible and try hopefully to increase the milk supply in that way.”
Paul revealed that last year, the country produced about 3.36 million kilogrammes of milk, with production expected to rise to close to four million kilogrammes this year and even higher next year.
“I think once we get the animals and farmers have already started to increase their breeding herds, we should be able to go well over four million and hopefully we can get close to 4.5 million and get the amount of milk produced above to where it was in previous years,” he stressed.
However, the BAS chief executive told Barbados TODAY he was concerned about the possible impact of the pending takeover of PHD’s parent company, Banks Holdings Limited (BHL) by international beverage firm AMBEV.
He said the uncertainty about AMBEV’s plans for PHD was a worrying factor, but he was hopeful that the investment which the new owners will make in Banks Holdings would filter down to locals.
“We hope the investment that the company say they want to make in Barbados is a true investment and that Barbadians as a whole would be able to benefit from it
. . . and one way that they can benefit truly is that we can continue to have access to the local milk market in the way that it has been provided largely,” the agricultural executive emphasized.
Added to that, Paul would like the new owners to continue supporting the local farmers by purchasing the milk they produce next year.
“We are in uncertain times when it comes to that particular area, but we have had no indication that the relationship between the farmers and the Pine Hill Dairy would see an [end] as a result of this,” he pointed out.