Consumers are being put on notice to expect a hike in poultry prices as feed prices increase.
However, president of the Barbados Egg and Poultry Producers Association (BEPPA) Stephen Layne is reassuring Barbadians that farmers will not carry up prices astronomically to put the popular item out of their reach.
Effective last Wednesday, Pinnacle Feeds, the island’s lone livestock and poultry feed producer, carried up the price of their products by an average of eight per cent.
Last month the company announced it had no choice but to do so as external market forces continued to adversely affect the cost of primary inputs, namely soybeans and corn.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Layne said a stakeholder meeting was upcoming to discuss the impact of the increase and other issues affecting the industry such as the recent importation of chicken wings by the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC).
“I am arranging a meeting with the major producers, the wider membership and the hatchery to see how we will deal with the increase and how we can best cover the costs without being too burdensome on the consumers. Realistically, some of the cost will have to be passed on but there seems to be an attitude that the agriculture sector must hold strain until it doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.
Prices in feed for the poultry sector increased by as much as $6. Broiler Grower 19 per cent which previously sold at $53.99 is now retailing at $60.23.
On Tuesday during the Budgetary Proposals, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that Government would work with the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) to provide a $2 million revolving fund to provide small loans to livestock farmers.
On Thursday during his contribution to the Budget debate, Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir said that instead of subsidising feed prices again, as was done on three previous occasions, that revolving fund was a direct injection of support for farmers to deal with rising input costs.
“It was announced that $2 million would go to the BAS for direct support to the farmers so they can . . . improve farm management, so they can increase production and take advantage of the increased production rather than we continue to fight issues with the increase in the price of feed. That to me is the best solution,” he said.
2021 Government has subsidised the price of feed, after Pinnacle announced that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was causing market disruptions and creating challenges accessing inputs. Back then, Government set aside $4 million in a price support mechanism which lasted for six months. Last October, the company indicated it wanted to further increase its prices by 21 per cent and Government injected $2 million in another price support scheme. That subsidy ended last month.
Regarding chicken imports, Layne said this practice was impacting the sector negatively.
“We will also be meeting to discuss the challenge of the imported chicken wings. We saw Spanish and English labelling on them and this is very questionable given that Europe and Central and South America are being impacted by bird flu. We don’t know how many quantities came in but we have been seeing them on supermarket shelves. It is a total disregard of the industry,” he said.
When contacted, Chief Veterinary Officer of the Veterinary Services Department Dr Mark Trotman said the wings were safe for consumption.
“All poultry products, fresh, frozen or chilled, including chicken wings, are imported by the BADMC as the sole importer of poultry products. No other individual company has the authority to import any poultry unless they go through the BADMC and are subject to a permit granted by us,” he said.
“So all of the chicken wings that would have been imported, unless they were smuggled into the country – and I am not aware of any products on the shelves that would have been smuggled in, – would have received a legal permit, which meant they would have come from a safe origin. So there should be no concern whatsoever about any poultry products presenting a risk for importation of any avian influenza virus or any poultry disease.”
Trotman said he did not have the details about the number of wings imported.
Meanwhile, the BADMC in a statement said that the importation of poultry products had resumed in the latter half of 2021 after the temporary importation ban was lifted.
“The halt on the importation of wings was first instructed by the Minister of Agriculture in 2020. The restriction went into effect in March [that year] when the COVID-19 pandemic started impacting Barbados. That action was taken at the height of the pandemic to provide local producers with the space to operate during those difficult months. That temporary restriction was only introduced for a period of three to six months and it was agreed upon by Cabinet.
As the restriction was not extended, the BADMC would have resumed that import in the latter half of 2021,” the statement said.
Although the quantity of imported wings is unclear, the BADMC’s website states that 1.4 million kilogrammes were imported last year and more than 800 000 kilogrammes were imported in 2021.