Struggling dairy farmers in Barbados were this afternoon thrown a $1.5 million lifeline.
The Ministry of Agriculture, which provided the short term financing through its Agricultural Development Fund, said it acted swiftly to put measures in place to avert a possible decimation of the local dairy industry and the ruin of small milk producers.
During the presentation of cheques at the ministry’s Graeme Hall offices, Chairperson of the Dairy Farmers Representative Committee, Annette Beckett explained that the industry had been in a crisis since last year when the Pine Hill Dairy cut producers’ milk quotas by 25 per cent from September 1 to the present.
Beckett said the money, which would be distributed to 18 farmers, was “extremely” timely, as it would go a long way in helping the farmers deal with the “tremendous” losses over the nine months.
“The farmers are now into their sixth months of cuts. The farmers committee is due to meet with the Pine Hill Dairy to negotiate the cuts for March, April and May, where the suggestion is a 42 per cent cut,” the farmers’ spokesperson announced.
She gave the assurance that the money would be used effectively and with forward planning, allowing the farmers to add value to the milk they produce.
Acting Permanent Secretary, Lennox Chandler, said the cheques range in value from $60,000 and $100,000.
“The Government has come to the rescue of the farmers, at least in the short run. We have provided, through the Agricultural Development Fund, the sum of $1.5 million, which will be distributed to the various dairy producers via a formula worked out by the farmers themselves,” added Chandler.
“Based on their quotas, it is anticipated that these monies will help tie the farmers over until a clear and cogent strategy can be fashioned by the various stakeholders, which will serve to determine the way forward for the industry,” the acting permanent secretary pointed out.
“Our dairy farmers have found themselves in a quite untenable situation, which for all intents and purposes, is not of their own doing,” Chandler asserted.
He said that, faced with an uncertain future and the possibility of considerable financial losses, the farmers turned to the Government for help.
Vice President of the Dairy and Beef Producers Association, Barry Bishop, was one of those receiving a cheque this afternoon. Bishop said his $72,980 cheque would already be wiped out on bills.
President Brian Allen disclosed that the current 25 per cent cut in their quotas, was allowing them to swap or lease quotas, “dry out” cows or feed back the calves with excess milk, so as to avoid dumping the precious commodity.
“Farmers sold cows at their premium so as not to dump milk. Some farmers have been feeding their calves with as many as 80 gallons of milk per day as another means of not having to dump milk,” declared Beckett. (EJ)††