Jobs in jeopardy

James Paul

The Barbados Agricultural Society is calling for the urgent intervention of the Government over the possible closure of some livestock farms and threats to the estimated 3,000 jobs in the poultry and fruits and vegetable industries.

Chief Executive Officer of the BAS, James Paul, told a hurriedly-summoned media conference this afternoon, that the actions of a number of fast foods franchises and local businesses, were putting the jobs of Barbadians in jeopardy by continually importing produce that could be grown or manufactured here.

“The issue that I want to deal with today is the impact that imports are having on locally-produced agricultural goods. There are a few, especially in relation to fruits and vegetables and also too, we have a problem with meats; to a certain extent, we do have a problem with dairy products.

“We have been noticing over the last, I think, two years or so, where importers in this country have been finding ways to see if they can bring products through the back door to compete with locally-produced agricultural commodities,” Paul revealed.

The spokesman for the farming community recalled issuing an earlier warning regarding the entry of certain fast food enterprises into Barbados.

“And we felt that if we allowed fast foods chains to come in without setting certain preconditions on the manner in which there are allowed to obtained produce, we are going to pose problems for our local industry.

“What we have witnessed since then … is that instead of arranging for the sourcing for their products locally from farmers, what we have seen is a complete reliance on international suppliers for the product, even in cases where our local farmers have the ability to produce these goods,” argued the BAS CEO.

Paul said while the society appreciated the need for local farmers and manufacturers to meet certain international standards required by the foreign food chains, the BAS has indicated it was willing to work with these outlets in getting the Barbadian producers to upgrade their systems accordingly.

“What you will find is that we have not detected any willingness on the part of these persons to do so. And I really want to sound it at a time when we are facing some new challenges, especially in respect of our livestock industry at this time. And if we are not able to cope with these challenges, we are going to find situation where even though persons locally who should source, normally from our local sources, might actually try to seek to source them from international sources,” he added.

Paul said such a situation would result in, for example, the local livestock industry being put under “tremendous” stress, and the BAS may have to ask government to intervene in this matter to try to secure Barbadian jobs.

He warned that even though the 70 per cent increase in corn prices on the international market would not immediately affect local feed prices, this was likely to change for the worse “at the next round of purchases”.

Now that is a major concern to local livestock producers generally because corn is a very important staple when it comes to feed production. We have not suffered any increase prices currently, but we anticipate that in the next round of purchases of corn we could very well see an increase in prices and we certainly will have to ask Government to see the extent to which they can assist in this regard,” asserted the farmers’ organistion leader.

Paul revealed that already employees at some poultry plants were working short weeks. He said the milk industry was also under threat, with the authorities allowing large scale importation of milk substitutes, putting that sector under pressure as well. (EJ)

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