The repeated call for a cut in imports of chicken wings could soon be answered, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir has hinted.
Weir said his ministry is to examine the poultry industry to determine what measures should be put in place to safeguard local producers.
“What the solution will be, as I have explained to the team here at Chickmont, will involve some form of research so that we can understand the behaviour patterns of the consumers.
“We would then need to understand the impact a reduction in chicken wings will have on the tourism industry and certainly any implications for people involved in business in Barbados. We all agree that we would look into it but that research has to be done,” Weir told journalists after a meeting with operators of Chickmont Foods Ltd., in which a number of concerns were raised.
Declaring that the poultry industry was critical to Barbados and its tourism industry, Weir said his ministry would be moving full steam ahead to address the concerns.
“There is a real responsibility on the part of the ministry to ensure that we can work with them and to make sure the industry is given the support that it needs. There are some issues in terms of the handling of turkeys and preparation of a whole turkey attracting VAT (Value Added Tax) if you start to butter-baste it, but if it is sold without any sort of preparation then it is VAT-free. That is an issue that certainly we can talk about,” he said.
“Then there is always that niggling issue with chicken wings, which we understand to be an issue that has been around, certainly long before my time, but one that we certainly would need to move with some alacrity to address,” he said.
Over the years, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul has been highly vocal in calling for a limit on the importation of chicken wings especially close to the Christmas season. He has maintained that local farmers could provide up to 90 per cent of the market’s needs.
Paul often argued that an increase in chicken wing imports caused local chicken farmers to suffer financially, as they were unable to compete favourably with cheaper imports.
Following his tour of the Christ Church-based Chickmont facility, Weir gave the assurance that his ministry would do what it could to ensure local farmers were not disadvantaged.
“As we address any issues with regard to competition being posed to the poultry industry through the importation of chicken wings, our first order of business is to make sure that any local business is protected and that we can expand the local business to the extent that they too can move towards supplying some of the chicken wings that will be needed in Barbados,” he said.
Weir said those issues would be addressed “early in the new year”, insisting that research would first have to be carried out.
“We must reach out to consumers to hear their views and we must reach out to the people who are involved in business to hear their views as well. But a solution certainly will be found in the very near future,” assured Weir, who said he was satisfied that the local poultry industry was “in a good position” and serving Barbados well.
The agriculture minister also pointed out that his ministry would be going back to Parliament to amend the recently-passed Protection of Agricultural Products and Livestock Act in an effort to make it “more suitable to an environment that farmers have to operate in today” and better protect farmers against praedial larceny.
“This is a matter that we have to address swiftly. That legislation will be coming back to Parliament so that we can make the necessary changes. But I am doing so on the basis that I have consulted with the farmers, especially those ones who have been affected,” said Weir, who promised to also meet with stakeholders and get recommendations.
While expressing satisfaction that Chickmont Foods had the internationally recognized Safe Quality Food certification, Weir said he was cognizant that the country was yet to meet international sanitary and phytosanitary standards so more companies here could export.
“There is a standard that you have to reach and that is what we are aiming for,” he said.
Welcoming the minister’s visit, Chief Executive Officer of Montrose Holdings, parent company of Chickmont Foods, Dominc DeFreitas said he was confident that through research, progress would be made to develop farming.
He also welcomed news of the applications of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, saying this would help his company to beef up its production and enter the export market.