When it comes to relief for farmers from a new water usage fee, the chief executive of the Agricultural Society, James Paul, is not buying what Agriculture Minister Indar Weir is selling.
Weir said he was still awaiting information from farmers on the impact that the Government’s Garbage and Sewage Contribution was having on their operations, but Paul said data was already submitted.
A spreadsheet showing the effect of an estimated 50 per cent increase in water bills from the levy, which is tacked on to an average poultry farm’s production costs, had been sent to the minister, Paul told Barbados TODAY.
Only yesterday, Weir said he was yet to receive evidence from farmers that the new GSC levy was negatively affecting their operations.
“So far I have not had any information giving me the detail, the quantitative analysis to show how the water is affecting the farmers in terms of inputs, in terms of unit costs, in terms of costs to the final consumer, and that analysis has to be done,” Weir had told Barbados TODAY, following a tour of Chickmont Foods Ltd on Monday.
But Paul insisted that he was not aware the minister needed the actual bills.
“I don’t know if the minister wants additional information in terms of the actual water bills that the farmers have,” he said.
“We were not told that before. So if he wants the actual water bill that the farmers have, I guess that is something that you will have to get copied – the farmers will have to provide copies of their water bills and send to him – the before and after.”
The farmers’ advocate said he would now have to encourage farmers to come forward with their water bills for the past four months, as well as bills for months prior to the tax, to show the level of increase.
“I could only encourage them, if that is what the minister wants for the individual farmers to come forward with bills . . .
I would tell the farmers now that is what he wants to see,” he said.
During the tour of Chickmont’s Christ Church facility, Weir also indicated that he would soon be reviewing the poultry industry to determine what measures should be put in place to safeguard producers against the importation of chicken wings.
But Paul told Barbados TODAY that research had been done and presented to the Ministry of Agriculture recently.
“We have done the study and we have provided the results of that study to the minister and of course we are waiting on his comments as far as the study is concerned,” said Paul.
“The conclusions are that the levels of chicken wing imports do impact on our local poultry production in terms of sales.”
Weir had promised to do a thorough review to find out what impact, if any, a limit on the importation of chicken wings would have on the tourism industry, other businesses and consumers.
He said that this issue was one that his ministry would need to move with “some alacrity” to address.