Poultry Producers Want 184 Per Cent Duty23 September 2013
BARBADOS - Local poultry producers remain firm in their position that anyone importing processed chicken products should be charged duty at a rate of 184 per cent.
Speaking with The Barbados Advocate, one day after Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, announced that a report containing the positions of the manufacturers, processors, importers, and fast food franchise operators on the tariff issue is now before the Cabinet Committee on Economic Policy for review, poultry producers, led by the President of the Barbados Egg and Poultry Producers Association (BEPPA), are sticking to their call for imported chicken to be taxed within the higher bracket.
The situation concerning the imported commodity came to a head in June, and a temporary agreement was made to revert to a rate of duty of 20 per cent for a three-month period, pending consultation with stakeholders and recommendations by a team headed by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Bentley Gibbs. While that report is now before Cabinet, players in the poultry sector are contending that the rate should not remain there, maintaining that imports have increased over time and are seriously hurting the local sector.
"When imports come in at lower duty levels, every kilo that comes in replaces one kilo of local meat, which means that some farmer is not growing that chicken. Imports in poultry over the last five or six years have increased some 300 per cent up to last year, and this year they may double again and this is being done at the expense of the local farmers – the local farmers being anybody growing chickens in their backyard to those producing thousands of chickens," General Manager of Chickmont, Edward Albecker, explained.
Albecker noted that in 2008, before the recession, the industry was producing 14 million kilograms, but last year they only produced 12 million kilos, and this year the figures are expected to drop by at least another million. He is attributing this shortfall to the rise in imported chicken and the recession and is questioning what has happened to the loyalty that was being created through the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association’s ‘100 per cent Bajan’ campaign.
The farmers are also adamant that the local commodity is better for Barbadians – not only is it fresh, possessing more nutritional value than the frozen imports, but it is free of drugs and preservatives.
"I think it is common knowledge that the United States uses hormones and antibiotics to grow their chickens; Barbados has been drug free and this is self-policed. There are no laws in Barbados dictating whether or not you can use drugs, but no farmer in this country uses drugs by choice – we run a good industry. In the United States they use hormones, antibiotics, probiotics and they can get chickens to grow faster and cheaper; does the Barbadian public want to have these products available to them?" Mr Albecker queried.
The group admitted that local chicken can be expensive, but they explained that the high input costs, which are beyond their control, are the reason for this. However, they argued that the local prices are no higher than the prices in other countries. Drawing reference to Canada, the group noted that even though that country has larger economies of scale than Barbados, the price of chicken there is more expensive.ThePoultrySite News Desk