Selling out

Dairy farmer Annette Beckett.
Dairy farmer Annette Beckett.

The Pine Hill Dairy has made it clear that its future survival in Barbados does not rest on local consumers.

The disclosure came last night from Chief Executive Officer of Banks Holdings, Richard Cozier, who is also a director of subsidiary PHD.

Speaking from the floor of a panel discussion at the Barbados Workers Union’s Solidarity House headquarters on the draft of a Raw Milk Sanitation Programme for the country, Cozier cautioned that “we have to look to CARICOM” for the future sustainability of the dairy industry.

He told the panel of top government officials and an audience of milk producers, that one of the hardest things would be record keeping. Cozier said the PHD was working for to have its international ISO milk standard ready by September this year.

Responding to criticism from one veteran farmer in the audience, that the dairy was all about “cutting out” most producers and taking milk from only four and that government had allowed the PHD to import powdered milk and sell it cheaply, the PHD director said he did not know how his company became “the Satan”.

He suggested it had done everything possible to work with the farmers.

“We have been working with the Farmers Representative Body. We have been successful at some times in working with the Ministry of Agriculture … I not sure why the Pine Hill Dairy is the Satan,” Cozier said.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John, one of the panelists, told a highly-charged meeting, that she was not concerned about the attacks and long talk, only in the fact that her ministry was looking for standards.

“This is not about the Pine Hill Dairy. This is about the regulators working to make sure all our Ts are crossed and Is are dotted, particularly relating to training and building up facilities,” St. John insisted.

Chief Veterinary Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. Mark Trotman, another panelist, informed the milk producers that the authorities did not want to stop farmers from selling raw milk, but was only trying to ensure that producers were registered to sell.

“We are proposing that there be some structure over what we have done… We just want to formalise what’s being done,” Trotman added.

The Raw Milk Sanitation Programme is being undertaken by the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.†Another panelist was Chief Environmental Health Officer, Tyrone Applewhaite.

Safety first

Applewhaite explained that the programme was designed to ensure that the necessary standards for the production of milk were met and that the milk which is being sold is safe.

“This is not a move to push the farmer back, but it is just a mechanism to ensure that we are going to work with the farmers,” he affirmed.

Adding that local farmers would have an opportunity to sell milk outside of the island once proper regulation was put in place, Applewhaite reasoned: “I believe that we should not only be producing milk for local consumption, but the milk should be able to go on a cruise ship or on an aircraft to the European Union, [or] to the United States; so we believe in standards. And, I believe that we can work together to come up with standards, similar to what we do with food standards.”

He noted that the farmers were invited to the panel discussion to provide feedback on the programme that would assist with preparation for the final document, which they “would look to operationalise … as soon as possible”.

He added that training would also be implemented for all parties involved in the programme to “prevent contamination of the milk from the cow, from themselves, from the environment, from the utensils and so on”.

“We will go into the outlets and train those persons who are working in the area of food safety, displaying and controlling temperatures on the chill counters and so on… Then there will be a general public education programme,” the health official stated.

In addition, Trotman emphasised the importance of testing milk, stating that if milk was not kept under certain conditions it could create bacteria.

“It is important to make sure that every step, from the beginning, from the cow itself to when the milk is actually sold on the market … there are certain checks in place to make sure that the milk does not become contaminated. Whether contaminated by the animal or contaminated by the person who is handling it,” he explained. (EJ)

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