CHICKEN producers are continuing to object to a plan outlined by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to temporarily suspend tariffs on leg quarters so that Jamaicans can buy chicken meat at cheaper prices.
Ian Parsard, vice-president of finance at Jamaica Broilers Group, has indicated that increased import of leg quarters, as proposed earlier this week, would be tantamount to building the chicken industry in the United States while causing the local industry to fail.
The proposal from the Government this week came after Jamaica Broilers announced that there would be a 10 per cent increase in the price of chicken meat, effective month end January, due to rising costs.
The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr proposed that consumers would buy leg quarters as cheap as $160 per pound if the common external tariff was removed for a period.
Parsard, in a company update on Thursday, said the move would “amount to a reversal of government policy, which, in the last 30 years, was aimed at growing the broiler industry”. He added that he expected the Government to reconsider.
He told the Jamaica Observer that, “Over the past three decades, successive Governments on both sides of the political divide have been deliberate in facilitating the growth of our poultry industry. Today, our industry is the largest agricultural industry – and it continues to grow and develop. With farmers heavily vested in all 14 parishes and the direct participation of approximately 150,000 persons in the industry, we are confident that the current Administration and the new minister of agriculture will make the correct decision for Jamaica.”
Parsard asserted tht removal of World Trade Organization (WTO)- and Caricom-approved tariffs would have an instantaneous and negative impact.
He stated, “Any move to reduce tariffs which are WTO-approved, governed by Caricom, and been well established for decades will negatively impact the industry – with particularly devastating impact on the more than 100,000 small farmers who supply chicken in the communities, schools, corner shops, etc.”
He said that the Government of Jamaica “needs to focus on building our Jamaican industry. Why build American farmers when we can build Jamaican Ffarmers ?”
The Jamaica Broilers response complements the call from the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) with JAS President Lenworth Fulton stating this week, “The pending removal [of duties] places the progress and investment made by over 150,000 small farmers in great jeopardy.
“They took their remittances, partner payouts, severance pay, small business and family loans, and other income and invested in the construction of chicken houses and the production of poultry,” he stated.
He asserted that bigger companies may withstand the impact of the proposed measure, but “our small farmers who are currently producing chicken for sale at $240 - $290 per lb clearly will not”.