Local poultry farmers are extremely disappointed by Agriculture Minister, Indar Weir’s dismissal of their unceasing cry for Government to ban or restrict the importation of chicken wings.
But farmers have taken comfort in a promised meeting with the Minister, to discuss that and many other issues facing the industry.
At the Barbados Labour Party’s(BLP) rally on Sunday night, Weir scolded Barbados Agricultural Society President and former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Member of Parliament, James Paul, who has continuously advocated for measures aimed at protecting the livelihoods of local poultry producers.
“I want James Paul to know that when he is … making his noise about chicken wings, you have got to understand the poor people. You claim to be part of a party that said that it stood for poor people and now you want to ask me to come and tell Barbadians they can no longer sell chicken wings. I can’t do it unless there is an alternative,” Weir said to hundreds of supporters gathered at Carlisle car park.
Paul’s most recent call was made last October, when he pleaded with the newly-elected BLP government to restrict the “reckless” importation immediately.
At the time, he said the quantity of chicken wings being imported was crippling the local poultry industry and small farmers in particular, who were unable to get their chickens sold.
When contacted on this occasion, Paul refused to go back and forth with the agriculture Minister over the issue. However President of the Barbados Egg and Poultry Producers Association (BEPA), Stephen Layne revealed the comments did not sit well with farmers.
“Most of the directors and membership have asked that until we have the meeting, we should put a hold on the comments. But you can expect that there was a lot of disappointment and I think we need some clarification on that statement from him,” he said in a brief statement.
“That [high importation of chicken wings] is not the only thing that would hurt farmers. We’ve been asking for this ban for a considerable time and this announcement does not change what has been happening. So the general group will have this meeting and we will make an announcement about where we will go.”
He revealed that a specific date had not been agreed upon, but in approximately two weeks, poultry farmers would take numerous concerns about the industry to Minister Weir.
While he could not state whether local farmers could satisfy the national demand for chicken wings, he said they could provide alternatives at the same price.
“A chicken wing isn’t even healthy. Many of the chicken wings that we have here come in because overseas, meat consumers are much more knowledgeable and perhaps recognize that wings are not as wholesome to eat as we think there are down here.
He added: “The sector is very hopeful that in the very near future we could provide a more quality piece of chicken at the same cost of the chicken wing and it would be better for the consumers and their families in terms of health, because a drumstick is healthier to eat than a wing and the weight of a drumstick, the ratio of bone to flesh is greater in a drumstick.
“Those are just some of the things that we want to talk about, but we just want to have the meeting and see where he goes with that,” said Layne.