Milk pain

by Emmanuel Joseph

Barbadian dairy farmers have found themselves in a deep financial hole and want Government to give them a $1 million bail out.

The 18 milk producers who supply the Pine Hill Dairy have been trying without success to get that company to pay them for thousands of litres of the product, but the PHD, faced with a milk glut, has so far been unable to do so.

Farmers contacted Barbados TODAY to complain about the difficulties, which sources said prompted a meeting with the Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture and discussion with the Minister of Finance.

The challenges were also confirmed by Barbados Agricultural Society Chief Executive Officer James Paul.

Paul, told Barbados TODAY this evening the farmers had reported they were getting problems being paid on a timely basis.

“We had a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture and the Prime Minister and have been in contact with the Minister of Finance also seeking assistance for a special temporary funding to help farmers get paid at this time,” Paul disclosed.

He also said the Pine Hill Dairy was having an issue, “and until we can get the milk off our hand, we would like some assistance to see the farmers through in the meantime.”

He said the government had given its commitment to assist, but nothing tangible had been forthcoming as yet.

The BAS CEO noted that some 18 dairy farmers were being affected by this current state of affairs, where there is a three-month over supply of milk at the PHD.

One farmer blamed the situation on poor management at Pine Hill.

“Monday they called and said Wednesday, then Tuesday they called and said maybe Friday, but nothing up to now. The most they would go over is two days. This has never happened before,” insisted the dairy farmer. “Previously they had said to farmers, they may have to stop taking milk. A normal pay day for the 18 dairy farmers is $400,000. The problem under normal circumstances is a supply of over 15,000 litres per day, but we are now supplying 10,000 litres and they can’t get it sold,” declared the upset producer.

The Dairy is scheduled to roll out a major marketing programme on Monday.

The farmer explained that SBI was the marketing arm of Pine Hill Dairy as well as the marketing agent for the Trinidadian imported Nestle products as well.

“We have pointed out to them (PHD) that this is a conflict of interest. After we agitated against the SBI affair, they are now supposed to use another person to roll out the marketing programme. We have already cut our quota by 25 per cent. We can’t sustain this, especially if we are not getting paid,” lamented the milk supplier.

President of the Barbados Beef and Dairy Producers Association, Bryan Allen admitted that this month was the “very latest payment has ever been.

“They can’t tell us when we will get paid. We are in a tight battle, especially with the drought in the United States pushing up the price of corn, which will also increase the price of feed. The Government is trying to help and the Dairy will be rolling out a marketing programme on Monday,” Allen added.

He said normally producers would be paid on the 18th of every month for milk delivered on the 15th so farmers could pay their feed bills.

Chairman of Banks Holdings Sir Allan Fields could not shed any light on the situation, but promised he would look into the matter tomorrow. He referred this newspaper to the Chief Operating Officer of the Pine Hill Dairy, William Haslett, who could not be reached up to the time of publication.

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