Agriculture Minister Indar Weir has declared his intention to protect local pig farmers against competition from imported pork and pork products, as he acknowledged the severe pressure those imports are having on producers here.
He expressed concern about pork being imported despite local supply being able to meet demand, as he introduced the Animals (Diseases and Importation) Amendment Bill in the House of Assembly on Tuesday.
“I am indeed saddened but concerned that we could have so many different cuts of pork imported into Barbados under many different excuses – sometimes justifiable, sometimes not so justifiable,” Weir said.
“I cannot allow for imported pork to compete with [local] pork, and therefore we are going to have to draw a line in the sand and determine what we are going to do about this problem.”
The Agriculture Minister said many farmers were already struggling with the increase in the cost of feed, among other challenges, and competition from the cheaper imported pork only added to their troubles.
He said this was the case for not only small farmers but larger producers as well.
“There is a major [farmer] right now in Barbados that is under severe pressure because he can’t compete with the imported pork which is taking up most of his market share,” Weir lamented as he urged Barbadians to support local produce.
Stressing the importance of increasing pork production further, Weir spoke about plans to facilitate individuals interested in pig farming – under Government’s FEED programme – at farms in St Lucy, St John, St Philip and potentially St Andrew.
Additionally, he said: “We have to bring back to Barbados the gilt programme where we are saying that once we have breeders specifically set up across the island just to produce piglets, and that farmers would have access to those piglets, then we can start to get the growth that we need in order for us to increase the production of pork in Barbados and cut out most of what we are importing if not all.”
Weir stressed that if the young people interested in pig farming were being empowered to produce but then had no market for their product, “they too will be set back”.
“I have gone on record several times saying that under a system of free enterprise and democracy, that all of us are allowed to compete but nobody owes you anything. But, equally, a government has a responsibility to make sure people are given a leg up and . . . we have to make sure it’s sustainable by reducing outside competition,” Weir added. (DP)