Pig farmers are counting thousands in losses as their businesses receive a significant hit from the closure of hotels and restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
President of the Barbados Association of Pig Farmers Henderson Williams said not only has the market for pork been chopped, but because processors closed their doors during the shutdown, some farmers now have large numbers of overweight pigs.
Williams told Barbados TODAY that farmers have had to find alternative means of getting the pork off their hands, including selling the meat at reduced prices to Barbadians.
“Remember hotels and restaurants would have bought a lot of meat. So the shutdown would have had an impact on the overall demand. Producers have been trying to find alternative ways to get rid of the meat. However, it has been a challenge because you can only do that much if the demand is down.
“Households would obviously continue to take pork because people are at home and they have to cook. But remember the fact is that a lot of our business is driven by hotels and restaurants and the tourists are just not here,” he said.
The President said the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) has been doing its best to give pig farmers a helping hand. He explained that in recent weeks, BAS has been selling bags of packaged pork at its Grotto, Beckles Road, St Michael headquarters at a significantly reduced cost.
“At the end of the day, people want to get rid of their pork and you have people who import and what may have been happening is during the lockdown people were using imported meats and the fresh pork market would have taken a lash. But as everything else, as challenges come we have to find solutions.
“But any assistance that the Government can give to help to subsidize, or assist with taking some of the product would be a help to the farmers. But now the place is open back up you are going to see maybe production will go back up and so on but that lock down would have had a tremendous impact on overall sales,” Williams said.
However, he noted that while pork sales dropped, pig farmers’ expenses have been rising because they still have to feed and maintain their animals. He said some farmers have even been purchasing feed on credit, but are failing to earn enough to settle the bills.
“So you have to keep the pigs longer and the ideal weight is 176 pounds or 80 kilograms to get to places like HIPAC. Now if you are going to feed a pig for an additional five weeks obviously the weight is going to go up,” he said.
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