Action to protect consumers of chicken meat
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is in dialogue with stakeholders in the poultry industry, with a view towards implementing strategies to reduce the level of increase that is passed on to consumers.
Making a statement in the House of Representatives on January 25, Portfolio Minister, Pearnel Charles Jr., said the Ministry is exploring several practical solutions within the short to medium term to mitigate further increases and to work with all stakeholders to continue to ensure the sustainability of the country’s food supply.
He said the Government is considering the temporary suspension of the common external tariff (CET) and additional stamp duties (ASD) levied on leg quarters.
“Currently, the price of leg quarters within the local market is $360 per pound. While we would be able to import leg quarters at $100 per pound and have consumers paying roughly $160 per pound, this would allow Jamaican consumers to purchase at least three times the quantity of poultry meat than they are currently able to afford. Leg quarters are readily available at more competitive prices than other chicken parts currently being utilised,” he explained.
He said the measure would be a temporary one until the local market recalibrates to normal levels, where supply matches demand as was successfully done before, when the country faced a similar crisis.
Furthermore, Mr Charles Jr. noted that the Ministry is executing a robust programme to promote the consumption of alternatives to poultry, ensuring Jamaicans have a range of options and adequate supplies of affordable protein.
He said the Ministry is also pursuing increased and efficient production of small ruminants, fish and pigs, which will serve to reduce the current demand for poultry.
“Additionally, our food bill already includes commodities which are affordable sources of proteins like canned fish, beef, chicken and pork. These, too, can be utilised and prepared in many different creative ways to allow consumers to have an ample supply and range of protein in their diets,” he said.
The Minister said the Ministry has been actively seeking more affordable market options for inputs such as baby chicks and fertile eggs that can meet regulatory requirements and bring down the prices for local farmers.
“This move will invariably redound to the benefit of all consumers,” Mr Charles Jr. said.
He noted too that the Ministry will be examining mechanisms and incentives to make the sector more attractive for investors to invest in local processing and growing of birds.
“So, as we seek to identify sources of low-cost feed for our poultry farmers, we have also mandated our Research and Development Division to carry out investigations, in conjunction with private stakeholders, to identify opportunities and develop formulae of feeds that will possibly be cheaper and utilise our local raw materials as alternatives, supplements or replacements,” the Minister said.
He pointed out that in order to ramp up production locally, the Ministry will also seek to encourage competition within the poultry sector by incentivising the investment in local processing facilities for new entrants.
Mr Charles Jr. said the Ministry remains committed to engaging relevant stakeholders, both public and private, in pursuing these options to ensure that Jamaica will remain a food-secure nation.
He noted that the broiler companies currently produce approximately 60 per cent of total poultry, with the remaining being supplied by backyard farmers, adding that their operations have been severely impacted by the ongoing challenges caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The agricultural sector has not been spared the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with pervasive logistics challenges within the global trade for commodities that have resulted in severe supply chain bottlenecks and delays,” he said.
Mr Charles Jr. explained that these supply chain disruptions are coupled with labour shortages, increased costs for transportation, packaging materials, grains, feed and baby chicks.
“It is important to note, also, that roughly 75 per cent of the eggs used to provide baby chicks for the industry are imported, with Jamaica Broilers being the only broiler company with a local hatchery that produces approximately 40 per cent of their fertile egg needs. This situation has now resulted in individual and contract farmers finding it increasingly challenging to source baby chicks for both their broiler and layer operations,” he said.
The Minister noted that these challenges have given rise to unprecedented increases in prices locally for animal protein, especially poultry products, with the price of locally produced chicken meat increasing by approximately 17 per cent over the last 12 months, moving from an average of $530 per kilogramme to just under $620 per kilogramme currently.
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