Far from over
Local business magnate Sir Charles Williams has hinted that the ongoing milk issue with Pine Hill Dairy could be far from over.
In fact, as the saga entered its third week today, Sir Charles, who heads C.O. Williams Dairy which he said represents some 17 farmers, again today spoke up on the issue, this time to Richard Cozier, CEO of Banks Holdings Limited, of which PHD is a subsidiary.
On a local call-in programme, Sir Charles argued with Cozier that “a mistake has been made” and that the farmers should not be expected to pay for a mistake made by the directorate of PHD.
The ongoing dispute between local milk producers and the dairy company stemmed from a decision by PHD to cut the milk quotas of farmers by 43 per cent.
The main agricultural body, the Barbados Agricultural Society, had cried out against the implementation citing the damage it could do to farmers and the industry, even as Sir Charles had called on farmers to seek a court injunction to stop the move.
Today the businessman, who had more than a week ago noted that he controlled some 170 cows, again today hinted at legal action while reserving the right to say if any had been initiated so far.
Cozier however disputed that an error had been made, stating: “The reality is that a quota, and he would know more about the quota than I would because it was set up in his time, and as far as I am aware the quota would vary from year to year depending on the market condition.
“So a farmer who had a quota for half-million kilograms of milk in year A might only get 450,000 kilograms in year B because the dairy would have done their research and said well we foresee that there are going to be some challenges with new entrants to the market, whatever the scenario. “Conversely, the dairy might say well we see a brightening up, a better tourist season, more consumption, so we are going to increase your consumption from 500 to 550. The difference between the two scenarios is that Sir Charles is saying that it should have been done through a quota and we are saying well we did it by suspending the quota.”
Cozier noted that legislation spoke to the existence of a dairy control board which was never established and his company had written to the Ministry of Agriculture urging them to set up the entity to help ease the strain of farmers and the processors constantly being at loggerheads.
Sir Charles argued though that he would have spent about $250,000 buying quota ffrom farmers who were shutting down, noting that there were also other farmers who had “bought quotas”.
“Our quota system was based on the English quota system and there were legal decisions made in England that a quota is a tangible asset,” he said, telling Cozier that he should buy his quota back if he wanted to cut it.
Cozier challenged this though, stating that the dairy never sold quotas to anyone, but rather allocated quotas to farmers, and therefore could not buy back what it never sold.
“Well I will tell you Mr. Cozier, we will test it, we will test it in front the law,” Sir Charles declared, though when asked what this meant said he would discuss it no further at the moment. (LB)