The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and local poultry producers have agreed on a number of initiatives to protect the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was revealed by Minister Indar Weir, during a press conference at his Ministry at Graeme Hall, Christ Church, yesterday, following an online meeting with industry stakeholders.
He said that there would be a temporary suspension on the importation and sale of chicken and turkey wings, as well as other poultry products by the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC), for a two-month period, beginning next Monday.
Minister Weir said the move would create additional space within the domestic market for the local producers who have been grappling with excess poultry, resulting from reduced demand and consumption since the shutdown of the tourism industry, fine dining and fast-food establishments during the curfew period.
The Agriculture Minister indicated that the resumption of poultry by the BADMC would not be permitted “until such time that our [monitoring and evaluation] says the industry has either returned to normalcy, or that we find ourselves in a position where we have to find some other revenue stream for the BADMC”.
He noted that should the latter occur, fresh discussions would be held with industry stakeholders to strike a balance for all involved, so as to prevent the statutory corporation going bankrupt.
Minister Weir emphasized that the situation would be closely monitored and evaluated, given the BADMC’s financial situation, as he noted the sale of chicken wings aided the statutory corporation’s ability to sustain its farming programmes, since the subvention from Government was cut to $1.5 million from $5 million, under the Barbados Economic Transformation and Recovery (BERT) Programme.
He explained that BADMC’s position was further compounded by the COVID-19 crisis.
“I have to be also cognizant of the fact that it will take away cash from the BADMC, and that their cash flow position I would then have to pay weekly attention to. Under the COVID [curfew] period, they would’ve lost sales through the airport store,” he stated, reiterating the objective was to achieve balance within the industry during this difficult period.
The Minister also disclosed that Government was working to address outstanding VAT refunds owed to the industry.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, and other industry players, who also attended the press conference, expressed satisfaction with the compromise reached, and were optimistic the measures would help to stabilize their operations.