BAS head issues stern warning to egg importers
Local importers should not see the ongoing egg shortage as an opportunity to “sabotage” this country’s egg and poultry industry.
This stern warning from Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul, who today issued a specific call to members of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other domestic importers to stop the habit of “willy-nilly importing” of products that do damage to the local productive sectors.
“The last experience we had of this was in relation to onions where our local import sector succeeded in sabotaging and undermining our fledgling onion industry in this country in order to profit in their pockets. I would hope that importers in this country do not see this [egg shortage] as an opportunity to sabotage our local poultry industry . . . I want to make that very clear,” he stressed, adding that with the signing of the recent memorandum of understanding between the agriculture and tourism sectors, he would be keeping hoteliers’ feet to the fire.
“At the same time, I am not saying that we are going to be reckless. We are going to make sure that if there is a demand for a commodity, once we can do it, we are prepared to go out there and do it,” said Paul.
He also suggested that the recent shortage should serve as a wake-up call to individuals to invest in the egg and poultry industry, which he said might be in need of restructuring in order to better mitigate any likely impact in the future.
Since late last year the island has been experiencing a shortage of eggs, leading to an importation of approximately 960 cases in December.
Last month an investigation was launched into the recent shortage of eggs in order to avoid a recurrence.
Paul told journalists that there were a number of contributing factors, agreeing that a recent spate of bird flu as well as unfavourable weather conditions in the United States and other parts of the world may have contributed to the shortfall.
Paul also explained that local hatcheries were caught “wrong-footed” because it moved from a situation where they were able to get the eggs within a month of placing their orders to six months in some cases.
“What it shows is that we also did not anticipate the impact that the cruise sector and the excellent arrivals we have now would have had, and the truth is that we had to supply the ships coming here and those home porting in some cases and we have to supply hotels,” said Paul who believes there are opportunities for investment, especially by young people, in the egg and poultry industry.
He said stakeholders were also looking into the possibility of setting up a breeder farm to cushion the impact of the fluctuation in hatching egg supplies in the future.
Speaking to journalists at Queen’s Park on the sidelines of a meeting with sponsors for the upcoming Agrofest showcase, the buy local advocate also dismissed a recent Jamaica Gleaner newspaper story which said that Barbados had requested eggs from that Caribbean state, saying the report was “presumptuous at best”.
While not denying that contact had been made with producers there, the BAS head said it was just an initial inquiry and not an order, adding that similar enquires were made in Trinidad and Tobago.
“There was never any agreement to purchase. There was never any quotation asked or anything like that,” said Paul, adding that he knew Jamaica would have found it “extremely difficult” to supply the Barbados market.