Dairy products could very well become the next commodity to see huge price rises as some farmers demand more after a decade of rising operating costs, the farming community’s leading spokesman said Wednesday.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul also confirmed that reports of exponential increases in the price of poultry products on supermarket shelves are the result of prior warning of rising animal feed prices by the island’s monopoly feed maker.
Paul suggested that in the interest of saving jobs from a potential decline in demand for higher-priced products, it’s time for Government to rethink its opposition to subsidizing production costs.
He declared that dairy farmers have been patient with the Pine Hill Dairy’s purchasing price for the last 11 years, but with the cost of living increasing, they would have push up the price of milk.
Paul told journalists: “The price of water has gone up considerably for them, the price of feed has gone up for them, and I cannot see how the current price can be a price at which our local dairy producers can operate, bearing in mind that the cost they are operating on is really based on what happened 10 years ago.
“The cost has gone up for them and, realistically, it will mean that somehow, either one of two things will have to happen. Either, as has happened between May and July, where the Government gave a subsidy to Pinnacle Feeds in order to sort of keep the price down, or you have to carry up the price. I don’t think you could cushion it either way.
“I know the Government gave a subsidy of $2 million to Pinnacle Feeds for two months. I don’t think that is unrealistic, I am hoping at least that they will consider some additional subsidy in some form or fashion. I think it is justified from the point of view that you have to make a choice.”
But Paul also warned that while prices may have to increase to cover production costs, the lack of competitiveness and particularly cheaper imported products could place some jobs in jeopardy.
“You either want to keep jobs or you want to have a situation where, because the price at which you are selling is not competitive, people will have to go home,” the BAS chief executive said. “We will have to make a choice and it’s either between that and people going home, and I would hope that as Barbadians that we would want to keep people employed.”
Evidence of the price increases, particularly for poultry, is making its way onto the shelves, with a whole chicken costing as much as $30.
The largest poultry distributor, Chickmont Foods, revealed its intention on national radio to raise the prices of its products from this week, citing an over 20 per cent increase in the price of animal feed.
According to industry players, the issues with feed prices stem from hikes of over 100 per cent in the cost of main ingredients, including corn, soybean, and wheat.
“I know stakeholders in the industry are sitting down working to determine the extent of an increase, but I think across all products, whether it be pork, poultry, milk, wherever…it is unrealistic to expect the prices to hold at the current levels because people still have to make money in order to keep their organisations going.”