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Tariff Hike Will Not Affect Imports

15 December 2011

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - The Government’s expected doubling of the tariff on imported chicken, from 40 per cent to 80 per cent, will not lead to higher prices of local chicken.

The Common External Tariff (CET) increase is meant to protect the local poultry industry, not place a ban on imported chicken or chicken parts. This was the assurance given by the members of the Poultry Association of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) at a media conference yesterday afternoon at Crowne Plaza hotel, Port-of-Spain.

Robin Phillips, Poultry Association president and director of public relations and marketing at Arawak Company Limited, denied claims made in a newspaper article on Tuesday that imported chicken had not affected local poultry jobs.

"At a symposium on Monday, hosted by the Livestock and Livestock Products Board, there were farmers there complaining because they couldn’t sell their chickens in the normal cycles. They were only getting two to three batches per annum this year, compared to previous years of five or six. So that means their income has been cut by more than half," he said.

Mr Phillips said even Arawak has been affected by what PATT described as a spike in the amount of chicken, usually "dark meat" — legs, thighs and part of the back - from the United States.

"My own company, Arawak, had to close their doors for two and a half weeks because there was no where else to put frozen chicken. What happens to the people who work in the plants? Sure, we could absorb and pay two and a half weeks but we cannot continue to do that on a consistent basis and one of our factories was closed in the latter half of November. All the producers here have been cutting hours and days and all sorts of things from their production schedules to balance the surpluses," Mr Phillips said.

The Poultry Association president also noted most direct employment jobs within the sector are in rural areas of Trinidad, hence any reduction in sales or worse, closures, would have a "disastrous" impact, especially on pluck shops.

Mr Phillips said there are approximately 3,000 pluck shops, which on average employ four people each. That’s a total of 12,000 people who would be affected by any reduction in the production of local chicken. PATT members also said they have not received any Government subsidies since the early 1980s and all they want is the aforementioned CET increase on imported chicken.

But Phillip Seepersad, a chicken importer, told Newsday said everything imported is duty-free.

"Ask any Customs officer about the duty-free concessions for local manufacturers. The Poultry Association should stop crying about under-priced imported chicken and start meeting local demand for leg and thigh quarters," he said.

Mr Seepersad said moving the CET from 40 per cent to 80 per cent would simply hurt "Mom and Pop restaurants and the small man on the street" who patronise these establishments.

"I cater mostly to small restaurants along the East-West corridor, not supermarkets. I have to pay duty, cold storage fees, and truckage. These big companies usually chill their chicken and transport them one time to supermarkets and their other clients. If cheaper, imported chicken is really a problem, then become innovative and find ways to cut costs, rather than running to Government for help," Mr Seepersad said.

ThePoultrySite News Desk



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