by Shawn Cumberbatch
Squeezed by a glut that has left it holding 20,000 cases of fresh milk, the Pine Hill Dairy is getting ready to launch a major export drive in partnership with the island’s dairy farmers.
Having already penetrated the Trinidad market, Jamaica and Guyana, two places where Barbadian fresh milk has never been sold, are next in line.
But in the interim, with cash flow problems hurting the producers and PHD, the two are about to make another approach to Government for financial assistance, industry sources said could be as much as $1 million.
News of this emerged today following a meeting between the island’s nearly two dozen dairy farmers and PHD management yesterday.
That company is a subsidiary of the island’s main beverage conglomerate Banks Holdings Limited, and today BHL Chief Executive Officer Richard Cozier said as early as next week a special committee of farmers and PHD personnel would be reconstituted in an effort to ease the current difficult financial situation.
From July this year there has been a milk glut in Barbados, when the island’s lone commercial dairy had an unusually high inventory of 60,000 cases of milk, half of which was surplus.
Since then 10,000 cases of the product has been either exported or sold locally, but the Pine Hill, St. Michael facility still has another 20,000 cases in storage.
Another measure to help ease the glut locally is to be announced early next week, but Cozier told Barbados TODAY that the export market would be key to ensure the current over supply of milk here, and hence the cash flow problems of farmers and the dairy, was resolved.
“The Trinidad market has opened for us, it has not been working that fantastic … but we are still there and we are still selling. None of the milk has come back, in fact just today we got another order, substantially less in terms of quantity, but there are still replenishing so we are building on success one at a time,” the official said.
“We have also in the last month got word from the CARICOM Secretariat that Jamaica confirmed that there will not be any tax on the Barbados milk. Our initial investigation led us to believe that it would be taxed but information came back that once we can satisfy Article 84 there is no tax. So we are going to test that and see if that is really so, but that also opens up another market.
“And we are going do some market tests, taste tests, and price point evaluation in Guyana to see what our opportunities are there as well,” he added.
Cozier said discussions would now have to be held with farmers on how the export push would take place.
This would likely see PHD finding the market for the product and providing the necessary marketing funds, while farmers would be expected to provide milk “that makes sense in the export market”.
A more immediate concern, however, was approaching Government for financial aid, two months after Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said his Administration would provide such assistance.
Cozier said the Prime Minister “was very understanding of our position but asked us to also understand his, that cash flow problems are not just peculiar to you, everybody has them, including Government, and to give him a few days and that he may not be able to give us everything we wanted in one bite, but in a few days hopefully we would have this”.
“That was in early September, we are now in November and a few days haven’t materialised yet,” he noted.
He said in the imminent second approach to Government he expected the joint PHD dairy farmer delegation would emphasise that it did not need all of the money front and was prepared to have it in tranches.