Despite rising pork production, president of the Barbados Agriculture Society Woodville Alleyne-Jones has claimed that pig farming is on the verge of collapsing under the hefty weight of water and tax bills.
Alleyne-Jones was speaking at a press conference with BAS chief executive James Paul when he revealed a 25 to 30 per cent jump in pig production in the month of December.
He also attributed a rise in pig farming, particularly among women, to the mass public sector layoffs, which began late last year. But he contended that the high water bills and additional costs were threatening the survival of pig-rearing and farming in general.
Alleyne-Jones told journalists: “If we are not careful, farmers are going to drop out because they can’t afford to pay. Before it was hard for farmers to make money but now it is nearly impossible.
“A farmer cannot afford now to work for nothing, the bills are there he has to pay them. If he doesn’t they will cut off the water bill and agriculture is going to suffer.”
He declared that as Government continued to advocate for food security, agriculture should receive subsidies as the imported products were maintaining a competitive advantage.
The BAS president added: “We have countries that are heavily subsidised they can sell their products a lot cheaper than Barbados and if we are not careful these people will take over our products and then . . . what they might do is take over our agriculture sector and by then it might be too late
Describing dialogue between farmers and Government as pivotal to the developing and preserving agriculture, Alleyne-Jones told reporters that discussions with Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir have been amicable.
He also revealed that the growing green monkey population has become “a big threat” to farmers and was in need of a solution.
The green monkey has long been officially classified as a pest, with a bounty placed on its head by the agriculture ministry.
The agricultural society leader said: “As far as I am concerned the monkey has become a pest; it is not just a pet anymore it is a pest and people are suffering from this pest . . . . We the people in agriculture need to start now looking up all the aspects whereby we can improve our agricultural sector.”
CEO James Paul joining the discussion, expressed his grievances with local retailers. He revealed that the pig farmers were in danger as the buying habits of consumers were evolving. He pointed out that the seasonal demand of different cuts of the pig was working to the sole advantage of commercial retailers. He indicated that the BAS will be embarking on a national campaign similar to the Proper Pork initiative to increase local consumption of pork products.
“We are seeing now pens come back into production but what kind of incentive are you going to give to those individuals when at the same time you have a situation where the buying habits in the supermarkets are changing. You have a disputation where now supermarkets are asking for the prime cuts before Hipacc takes the whole carcass . . . now we have a situation where supermarkets are saying ‘no we want the loins’. . . .
I understand that there are some major supermarkets that are telling farmers they are not taking the whole carcass so farmers are now challenged with how do they get rid of the lamb and shoulders,” Paul disclosed.
“In the past, many of the retailers that we had were local retailers so they understood and they could empathize with how the market needed to be shaped, now we have a situation where many of the principal retailers are foreign owned in this country and they do not feel the same level of empathy with a Barbadian,” he added.