After forcefully telling Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Pearnel Charles Jr on Wednesday that the Jamaica Agricultural Society [JAS] was against the temporary removal of imported duties on leg quarters, President of the JAS, Lenworth Fulton, has reversed his position, somewhat.
“The Jamaica Agricultural Society wishes to make it quite clear that it is not at variance with the Agriculture Ministry in relation to its policy initiative for the development and sustenance of the local poultry industry and the preserving of the availability of chicken meat at the most affordable cost to consumers,” Fulton said in a follow-up statement on Friday.
“Further and better information recently shared by the Ministry of Agriculture leaves no doubt in my mind that the way forward in addressing the price of chicken meat as presented to Parliament recently by the minister is multifaceted and sustainable.
“The aspect of the removal of CET [common external tariff] on imported leg quarters as a sunset initiative is a minor component of the comprehensive development programme the government has for the sustainability of the small chicken farmers and the industry in general,” Fulton added.
The JAS president said it was the Society's firm belief that the price of chicken meat can be much lower. He said this is possible if the major players in the industry cooperate with the stakeholder community and foster a more harmonious interaction between the various levels of producer as well as with the other stakeholders, by encouraging more sustainable management of the release of inputs as well as the day-old chickens to the small farmers.
“The perceived anticompetitive practices by some players in the sector have necessitated the CET removal as one of the enlightened mechanisms to make protein available at affordable cost to the Jamaican population,” Fulton declared.
Continuing, he said “The proposal, which we welcome, is the temporary suspension of the import CET and additional stamp duties levied on leg quarters. Currently, the price of leg quarters within the local market is at $360 per pound while we would be able to import leg quarters at $100 per pound and have consumers paying roughly $160 per pound. This, as the minister stated, would allow Jamaican consumers to purchase at least three times the quantity of poultry meat than they are currently able to afford. Leg quarters are readily available at more competitive prices than other chicken parts currently being utilised”.
Fulton wants the government to go further, arguing that “What is truly required…not just for poultry, but for the entire sector, is significant, sustained and supportive investment, buttressed by the deployment of persons with deep knowledge of the sector and the requisite concern for the players at all levels and for the role which agriculture has played and continues to play in national development”.
Fulton has assured that the JAS will continue to work with the agriculture ministry to make food available to the population while providing improved and sustainable livelihoods to farmers.
On Wednesday Fulton warned that up to 150, 000 small farmers could be wiped out if the government goes ahead with its proposal to temporarily remove duties from imported leg quarters. Such a move, Fulton said then, could prove to be more damaging to Jamaica socially and economically than the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Charles Jr stressed in Parliament that the move would be temporary and was aimed at cushioning a 17 per cent increase in the price of chicken over the past 12 months with Jamaica Broilers announcing a further 10 per cent increase that is to take effect at the end of the month.