Rising Costs, Fears of Cheap Imports Hit T&T

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO - Higher feed costs are pushing up chicken prices locally but producers fear the impact of cheap imports.
calendar icon 11 September 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

Chicken prices will continue to raise over the next few months as producers look for opportunities to cut losses from higher input prices, Geoffrey Rostant, Poultry Manager of Mastermix Feeds, told The Guardian of Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr Rostant noted that customers may have been observing that chicken prices both at the supermarkets and at pluckshops have been going up over the past few months as contract farmers try to minimise the heavy losses from last year’s high commodity and input (feed) prices.

He said: "Prices are starting to normalise and we are getting closer to covering our cost. The low prices we have been seeing over the past few months are not sustainable as the cost of inputs on the international markets have not aligned with the prices we are getting for the finished products. There has been a rise in demand and the price for live chicken now stands at $5.50 pound. We are trying to make a break-even.

"It is not the case of the budget impact as processors have cold storage stock in warehouses. We had suffered heavy losses and retail prices have been depressed."

He said manufacturers have also been coping with a glut of chicken on the market due to cheap imports. Mr Rostant said the farmers have presented their case to the minister (Arnold Piggott) as they were concerned about the future of the industry.

He said: "We presented our case to the minister and highlighted the grave threat to the industry that have been made by the importation of cheap leg quarters. There is zero due on tariffs from the United States. The leg quarters are by-products which are sold at depressed prices.

"They want us to sit down and continue. They are killing us with this policy, and they are always talking about agriculture and not taking serious action to grow the industry.

"All we got was a hearing. We are waiting to see what action they will be taking to help agriculture to grow," he said.

President of the Poultry Association, Robin Phillips, said prices had been depressed for a while on the live market.

Mr Phillips said: "The glut has gone and prices have become more stable as we sold off surpluses from earlier in the year." He added that the association had no control over prices at depots.

"We don't deal with what they charge their customers. I don't doubt that there are people selling it higher than $5.50. However, shops have also reported a rise in the wholesale price of live chicken stock."

Reeyad Ali, owner of Reeyad's Poultry Depot in Aranguez, has also confirmed the incremental increases in live chicken prices every week for the past few months.

Mr Ali said: "There has been a gradual increase in prices everyday. Dead weight prices sell by me for $10 a pound for processed chicken. The rise in prices have been going for at least a month. We buy from different companies and only one has stayed with the same price.

"Prices have been rising since July. Soon nobody will buy because it is high and there is more available than can be consumed."

Mr Ali added that several other depots have been forced to sell at higher prices to maintain their margins.

He said: "We process our chicken at a dead weight price. Some at other depots sell at $10.50 or $11 a pound." He explained that September has always been slow because Hindus fast until Divali.

"Fifty per cent of my consumers are the Hindus. The slow period is during that time. They fast up to Divali and don't eat meat at all. After Independence, you always see a drop in sales," Mr Ali told The Guardian.

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