Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), James Paul has rubbished suggestions by Anthony Wood that a two-month suspension on the sale of imported chicken wings was done in the name of big business.
On the contrary, Paul said the measure has been equally vital to small and large producers of poultry as he again made a plea for long-term measures to protect the “sensitive” industry.
He noted that three chicken processors have already “significantly” reduced their glut of frozen poultry that resulted from weeks of lockdowns resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“I would certainly like it to continue a little longer, and we will wait and see what happens. But I think we have to acknowledge that every pound of chicken imported has a negative impact on our local poultry industry. It is something that we will continue to lobby for, because the industry needs to expanded and the imports are preventing the industry from expanding, so that will be a continuing effort,” Paul told Barbados TODAY.
“At the end of the day, any suspension or ban will benefit the local poultry industry. In terms of large or small, I don’t distinguish between the players in the industry because we have an industry that comprises both large and small players, and once more local chicken is sold, I think that that is helpful,” he added.
On Wednesday, Wood, the former Chairman of the Barbados Agriculture and Development and Marketing Company (BADMC) and former Barbados Labour Party parliamentarian accused the Government of denying cheap chicken to working class Barbadians and small businesses who rely on the state-owned enterprise for imported chicken wings.
The BAS’ CEO however declared that local poultry producers are fully capable of meeting the massive local demand, and argued that competition from chicken imports has been the real burden on small farmers all along.
“Mr Wood would have to explain his position, but I am going on empirical evidence where it is a demonstrated fact that when you reduce the quantity of imported chicken, you get more local chicken being sold. We have asked the Government to grant the industry more space to expand. We know that the industry currently has the capacity to supply 100 per cent of the poultry needs, and that is a fact,” Paul told Barbados TODAY.
He also dismissed claims that Barbadians somehow need large quantities of chicken wings in their diets as a “marketing ploy” by persons currently making millions from the industry.
“What I think is unfortunate is that you have a bunch of unscrupulous importers and persons who make tremendous profits off the sale of chicken wings, who are trying to shove down Barbadians’ throats that they cannot do without a wing. Legs and thighs are very popular among Barbadian consumers, along with breasts. It’s part of an agenda where Barbadians are being told that the only part of the chicken you can eat is wings,” Paul charged.
When asked about the impact that certain World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations might have on future protectionist efforts, Paul said that the international organisation merely required 10 per cent of total consumption to be imported.
“People are using this whole question of the WTO requirements because many people don’t understand what those requirements are. In no way will the ban or suspension breach the WTO agreements. Poultry has been declared a sensitive product, and we are allowed to take whatever steps are necessary to defend that product in Barbados,” he declared.