Government has set aside an additional $2 million dollars in price support for livestock farmers to combat rising feed prices, and is giving the assurance that the money will be paid.
In addition, it has also negotiated with the main feed manufacturer, Pinnacle Feeds, for an 11 per cent rise, as opposed to the previously indicated 26 and 19 per cent increase, respectively.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir, said today that the 11 per cent rise could translate to feed prices increasing by three, five and eight per cent, or “go past 11 per cent” in some instances.
He was at the time responding to questions from the media during a virtual press briefing to update the country on Government’s state of readiness against the African Swine Fever, which has been detected in the Dominican Republic.
Mr. Weir explained that following meetings with stakeholders and the new investors in the company, Government was able to negotiate the proposed increase from 26 per cent down to 19 per cent. That has since been further reduced to 11 per cent.
But, he stressed, “the reality of it is that Pinnacle is a private entity that is also carrying increased costs of inputs…. Pinnacle is a private entity that is free to increase its prices.
“We, as a Government…have a responsibility to the livestock sub sector, and therefore, anything we do is in support of the livestock farmers of Barbados….”
He stressed that Cabinet determined that there was a need to support the island’s livestock farmers, resulting in Government putting a $2 million price support in place in May to cover a three-month period.
That support, he explained, assisted farmers in purchasing feed for their animals at a reduced price.
The Minister added that Government had further agreed to continue supporting the livestock farmers, for a further three months, to assist them in defraying increased costs in the feed.
But, he noted, Government was reviewing its options to determine more sustainable approaches towards protecting the livestock sector.
“We recognise the world is trending upward and everything is going upwards. And I must say to you that we all know that when it comes to increase in prices … you will find as flexible as it is with prices going up, it is always tricky to get them come back down. Being cognisant of that, we are looking at our options that we can put in place to be able to assist the livestock sub sector, rather than a reliance on price support,” Mr. Weir said.
However, he stated that although Government had undertaken to provide price support to the sector in May, there was a payment mechanism that had to be followed.
“All the feed that is sold by Pinnacle [Feeds] has to be reported. All that information has to be captured and reported to the Ministry. The Ministry then has to do an assessment…[and] that assessment…is then shared with the Ministry of Finance, and then through the various forms that are issued by the Permanent Secretary. We then assess funding in order to be able to pay the supplier,” he explained.
However, Mr. Weir gave the assurance that “Government will pay”, as he underscored the importance of having price support mechanisms in place to support the farmers.
“We have to follow the payment mechanism because we can’t just up and take money and pay without first putting the system in place that guarantees that we are paying for the feed that was sold,” he stated.