Possible ham shortage this Christmas
The Jamaica Pig Farmers' Association has assured that issues causing a shortage of pork earlier thisyear have been resolved and assures there will be no ham shortage this Christmas.

David Robb, spokesperson for the Jamaica Pig Farmers' Association, indicates that “presently there is ample supply of pork and pork products in the marketplace. The tightness in supply which was experienced in the mid-year has since abated and we expect that supplies of pork and its products will be adequate for the remainder of the year.”

A similar report has been issued by fast food chain Burger King where bacon was unavailable at some locations in October.

Group Marketing Manager Lisa Lake stated, “Whilst our local supplier has experienced shortages in bacon over the last couple of months due to shortages of pork belly on both the local and international markets, that was alleviated in the last two weeks and we have been informed that there is sufficient supply to see us through the holiday season.”

Pork, a favourite meat during the Christmas holiday season, now retails for about $400 per pound. Earlier in October retailers had started warning of a looming shortage.

Pork farmers had apparently reduced production due to competition from imports. However, the Pork Farmers' Association is now indicating that supplies are now plentiful.

Don Wehby, Group CEO of GraceKennedy Limited, whose Hi-Lo supermarket chain provides food and meats, noted, “The Jamaican pork industry is supported by a collection of small farmers, who have reported massive increases in the costs associated with rearing healthy pigs in recent months. As a result, there has been a significant decline in Jamaica's pig population. To protect our local industry, there are also import restrictions on some pork products, like ham. We believe that this, coupled with the pig shortage, is likely to have some impact on the availability of Christmas hams this year.”

However, he said, “Bacon, on the other hand, is made from imported pork bellies, which have been in short supply globally this year. However, we have seen improvements in the supply of pork bellies recently, and expect an adequate supply of bacon to reach the local market in the months ahead.”

Ministry sources, at last report, indicated that the local pig farming industry produced 7,468,000 kilogrammes of pork annually and said there were 6,253 pig farmers islandwide, with the majority residing in St Elizabeth.

Through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the Government's advisory role includes construction of the pig farm, management and development of the farm, record keeping, sanitation, health, production and marketing.

The Government source said that farmers should not put all their pigs in one pen and that they may need a sow's farrowing pen, a weaning pen, a finishing pen and a boar pen. RADA will advise on the construction of the pen to suit the particular class of pig.

Farmers are challenged by the cost of feeds, with increases for soya bean and corn.

Another challenge is periodic glutes. However, in the past the Pig Farmers' Association and the Jamaica Livestock Association (JLA) have agreed to monitor production to ensure a consistent and steady supply.

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