Egg farmers urged to set up central marketing structure
Acting president of the Jamaica Egg Farmers Association Mark Campbell makes a point during the group’s annual general meeting held earlier this month at Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rios, St Ann. (Photos: Horace Mills)

OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Local egg farmers are being urged to unite and create a central marketing structure for their product in order to counter what is seen as a threat to the industry posed by constant hikes in the price of feed.

The proposal was made by Jamaica Egg Farmers Association acting president Mark Campbell at the association’s annual general meeting held earlier this month in Ocho Rios, St Ann.

“I think we are at a major crossroad in the existence of the egg industry in Jamaica as we know it... You cannot have [so many] increases in the price of feed — 11 of them in the last several months, seven of them in 2021, and in this year alone four of them. It is a situation that cannot continue,” Campbell said.

“When you look at the cost of production where feeds represent 70 per cent of what it costs to produce a dozen eggs, and you have faced 11 increases over a period of few months, you can’t even go to your customers [for them to pay more]. Can you go to them 11 times in a short period to say that you are looking at adjustments in price? It is almost a difficult and impossible situation,” he argued.

The price of feed, more than any other factor, is also wiping out major gains made in the egg industry, Campbell said. Among those gains, he pointed out, is that Jamaica no longer imports eggs.

A workable solution, he argued, is to have a central structure for marketing eggs produced by farmers across the island. That system works well in Canada, Campbell claimed.

“If Jamaica does not move to market eggs through a central market, we are going to be dead. I know what we want. I know that we love to drive out of our communities with our little vans and boast when we go in the bars in the night how ‘I supply such and such a place, and it is my business.’ But in reality, we are fooling ourselves,” said the veteran egg farmer.

“When 20 of us are going to the same supermarket man to sell him eggs, who yuh think is going to win that negotiation? It’s the supermarket man. He is going to push one [farmer] against the other and the other against one until he gets a price that he is comfortable with... We have to do business in a structured and central way. We have proven that it can work. Here, we believe it can’t work... We just believe that we must be in this constant fight with one another. It does not have to be a fight; it can be a situation where we are all winners,” he said.

Competition among egg farmers for a profitable local market, Campbell argued, has contributed to forcing many of them out of business.

“You have seen how many egg farms all over Jamaica are shut down. They come up, they create a disturbance in the market for a while, and then they fall by the wayside because they just cannot make the kinds of returns to make their business profitable,” he said.

Campbell also used the opportunity to reiterate the Jamaica Egg Farmers Association’s call for Government to remove general consumption tax (GCT) from eggs to facilitate higher consumption.

“It affects consumption because it adds 15 per cent to the cost to the consumer. We, through the ministry, during the [novel coronavirus] pandemic, demonstrated that Jamaicans will buy more eggs if the GCT is not on it [or] if it gets to the consumer cheaper by way of removing the GCT,” he said.

“Even when you, the farmer, don’t charge that GCT, the supermarket man puts it on and so the consumers pay it. It is a burden to the consumers, and every single [agriculture] minister who has sat in the chair has promised to deal with this matter and we still wait,” Campbell said.

Egg farmers at their annual general meeting earlier this month in St Ann.
BY HORACE MILLS Observer writer

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