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Hold on milk quota cut

Dairy farmers in Barbados have come up with a new plan to help resolve the impasse between them and the Pine Hill Dairy over the PHD’s proposal to cut their milk quota by 43 per cent from tomorrow.

And following more than an hour of talks, the two sides announced late this evening that the dreaded cut would be stayed at least for the month of January.

Members of the team of dairy farmers led by Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Soceity, James Paul, at the Pine Hill Dairy this afternoon.

In the joint statement signed by President of the Dairy and Beef Producers Association, Brian Allen, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, and CEO of Banks Holdings Limited, Richard Cozier, it was revealed that the current 25 per cent reduction would remain in place.

While there was no clarification of whether this was contained in the alternative plan the farmers took to the meeting, the statement added:

“During this time, the parties will make every possible attempt to again interact with the Barbados Government to address the current issues relating to assistance for the dairy industry as outlined and accepted by Minister of Agriculture, … David Estwick in August 2012, and subsequently by Prime Minister … Freundel Stuart in September 2012, again making reference to the fact that the local industry continues to save Barbados $17 million in foreign exchange annually.

“Further, the PHD will not during January 2013, take any milk in excess of the total adjusted quota from dairy farms.

“Despite compromises on both sides, there will be a substantial financial loss to both the PHD and dairy farmers during the current period. Both sides feel strongly that this situation can be averted by:

1. Swift governmental intervention to buffer the industry.

2. An increase in the consumption of pasteurised milk by Barbadian consumers.

“At the end of January, in the event that there is no Governmental intervention, both sides will be forced to revert to their original positions.

“Both dairy farmers and the PHD abhor the idea of dumping wholesome Barbadian milk and are seeking to avert such a circumstance at all costs.

“The two sides are jointly committed to providing consumers with first class milk products and are seeking the support of all Barbadians in ensuring the survival of the industry.”

Also attending the meeting on behalf of dairy farmers were Annette Beckett, Barry Bishop and MacDonald Stevenson.

When a group of farmers joined with Paul last Friday during a news conference to respond to the proposed cut, they agreed to take the dairy to court, if it did not back down from its decision.

In fact, the island’s largest dairy farmer, Sir Charles Williams suggested that the farmers should stop wasting time with meetings, and file an injunction in the law courts today, to stop any reduction in the quota.

The farmers fear such a substantial slash in their quota by the PHD would effectively shut down the industry, resulting in the sending home of many workers and the dumping of hundreds of kilograms of fresh milk daily.

They are blaming the current situation on “bad management” by the dairy, which they said had allowed some 160,000 litres of milk stock to accumulate and now because the company has first to get rid of it, the farmers have to pay.

The dairy producers are worried that they could not survive a cut in their quotas, especially considering the already heavy operating costs they labour under. (EJ) 

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