The vexing issue of the illegal importation of chicken wings reared its head again today as the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) complained bitterly that the practice was continuing unabated despite its repeated protests.
Not for the first time BAS Chief Executive Officer James Paul accused unnamed “unscrupulous importers” of bypassing the Barbados Agricultural Development & Marketing Corporation (BADMC) and were flooding the local market with chicken wings.
“We find it difficult to understand how there are other persons who seem to have access to chicken wings outside of the BADMC. If we are serious about agriculture and the preservation of jobs we cannot have a situation where persons within the private sector are prepared to act in a manner to compromise jobs in the sector,” Paul told journalists at a news conference at his office on Beckles Road, St Michael.
The issue became a major talking point after Paul complained at a hastily called news conference last month that a wholesaler had been flooding the market with chicken wings imported independently of the BADMC. He also called on the Ministry of Trade, the Customs Department and the Ministry of Agriculture to explain the alleged circumvention of the process.
The matter gained even more prominence after the authorities reportedly raided a property and destroyed several hundred pounds of wings.
An official source told Barbados TODAY at the time that the container load of chicken wings was smuggled through the Bridgetown Port and had become the subject of a major fraud investigation by the Customs & Excise Department.
Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss would later contradict them all, suggesting that the yet unnamed importer did not circumvent the process.
“A cursory check with my staff has indicated that the only entity for whom a licence has been issued to import chicken wings into Barbados is the Barbados Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation and I have no reason to believe that was not followed,” Inniss told journalists last month, even as he promised that the relevant authorities would investigate the matter.
However, Paul today suggested that the situation was getting worse and that local poultry farmers were being forced to sell chicken at record low prices.
“Some wholesalers are now offering two whole chickens for $10- never before seen. A whole chicken can now be bought in the market for $13. This is from a high last year when a chicken was being sold for $20 and $26. It shows the level of desperation in the industry. However, in the meantime importers are being allowed to bring in wings. Something is wrong here,” Paul argued.
Paul, a Government backbencher, expressed concern that the illegal importation was taking place during the Crop Over festivities when hotels were recording high occupancy levels.
He pointed out that farmers usually relied on Crop Over to secure good sales for their produce.
“Whether you are a poultry farmer or a pig farmer you are looking to take advantage of the Crop Over festival because this is the time when many visitors come from overseas. Many of the restaurants and the hotels are doing a lot of business, so farmers are not only looking to maximize sales to households, but they are also looking to maximize sales to businesses,” he said.
The BAS boss also complained that some businesses were importing okras, vegetables and pumpkins to sell to hotels and restaurants.