The nation’s producers of eggs and chickens were given a demand by new farm minister Indar Weir for proof the Government’s new tax and tariff measures would trigger steep prices for consumers.
Weir’s “amicable and frank” meeting with the Egg and Poultry Producers Association sought to address complaints that the new rates the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) is to collect at month-end are financially burdensome.
“An issue of water rates was raised and I told them to go and provide the proof,” Weir told Barbados TODAY.
The new Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC), which came into force on August 1, is 50 per cent of the water bills of commercial farmers.
Just yesterday, spokesman for the farmers and chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul warned that the new levy would make local producers incapable of competing against international producers.
But Minister Weir urged them today to first balance their concerns against all the incentives they are getting from the Government.
“Take into consideration all the inputs coming from the Ministry to the egg and poultry producers in terms of the duty-free vehicles that they get, all the concessions that they get from the Ministry; take those into consideration, do a comparative analysis and let’s see if in truth and in fact there is a real increase in costs, and if so, what is it,” he told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
The Minister for food security went on to strongly suggest that any incentives given to farmers must be passed onto the consumer.
“At the end of the day my position is that the consumer is supposed to benefit from any incentives that this ministry gives to farmers or any kind. And so that if we are giving away to the farmers incentives, then the consumer must be the beneficiary,” he added.
When final analysis is done, the farmers can therefore determine if in fact, the new rates are burdensome or not, Weir argued.
Asked if the farmers are expected get back to him with the proof, he said they must, “and they must end the conversation too”.
The Minister also told Barbados TODAY that the egg and poultry producers raised a number of other concerns which both sides must now sit down and work through.
Among the issues is the Government’s ongoing importation of chicken wings in a nation considered self-sufficient in egg and poultry production.
Weir gave the assurance that the issue would be addressed urgently.
“I would certainly have the new chairman of the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) take it as a matter of priority to be looked into and then we will make a decision as to how we are going to go forward,” he said.
The state-owned BADMC retains the sole licence to import wings.
The Barbados Agricultural Society has led a chorus of disapproval, with chief executive James Paul last week urging the Government to increase tariffs on wing imports.
The number of imported chicken wings in supermarkets was having a negative impact on local producers, Paul claimed.
But an evidently upset Minister called on the farmers to stop “running to the Press” first with information that may be unfounded.
“It was a very amicable and frank meeting. They are in a better position to understand where Barbados is going. They are in a better position of trying to present information [to the ministry] before running to the Press and trying to spew things that they may need to have to defend later. So all in all, it was a very cordial, but frank meeting,” Weir told Barbados TODAY.
The farmers and processors, he insisted, now have a better understanding that they were operating under a new administration and that it was no longer business as usual. (EJ)