The global free trade watchdog, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), may soon be asked to back a preferential trade agreement for Barbadian pork and poultry products, Minister of Small Business Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland has said.
Sutherland has hinted that some manufacturers may be in line for similar support while contending that pork farmers have for too long been priced out of the market by cheaper imports.
Although the WTO generally disapproves of preferential arrangements and similar protectionist measures, its rules do make provision for exceptions in cases where regions, sectors, and industries may be unfairly disadvantaged.
Sutherland told Barbados TODAY: “We have the capacity and the scope in my view to be self-sufficient in pork production in this country, but having said that, we are a signatory to the WTO regulations and indeed the technical barriers to trade, require that we have imports.
“However, we need to create the policy space through the WTO trade law mechanisms, whereby we can indeed build out our industries.
“Not just the pork industry but also poultry and some manufacturing industries as well.”
The Minister noted that while there must be exceptions, it was imperative that local producers are allowed the space within their home market, otherwise they would be forced out of business.
He said: “There are certain
manufacturers that need to import certain parts of the pigs for their products and indeed we cannot stop that, but what we can do is discussed with the WTO through their trade law mechanism to create that policy space that we become self-sufficient in pork production.
“Those special cuts that come into the country that are being used in manufacturing and the hotels must still be allowed to come in.
“So we have to sit with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and the Ministry of Commerce to see how we can create that policy space.”
He continued: “For the year thus far we had 1.1 million kilograms of pork imports. That represents $6.3 million going out in foreign exchange. In 2018, we produce 2.8 million kilograms of pork and in 2016 and 2017, we produce 2.5 and 2.6 kilograms of pork respectively.
“So, you can see that space is there for us to empower our small pork producers. We can’t have persons selling in this country, what would be termed in other countries as a dumping price.
“I understand pork was on the shelves for less than $5 per kilogram. Our local producers cannot bring pigs to market at that price.”
The Minister’s pronouncement should be music to the ears of pork producers, as two months ago they complained through CEO of Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, that the market was being flooded with pork. They called on Government to immediately address the issue.
At the time the farmers reported a slump in the number of pigs being slaughtered on a weekly basis as a result of the imports.
According to one farmer, his numbers fell from 40 carcasses per week to eight. Another farmer said that his numbers decreased from 100 per week to between 60 and 25, contending that the situation was simply untenable.
Farmers complained that the market was being flooded with pork from the United States and Germany, resulting in a severe slump in their sales and threatening their survival.