A few of the foremost players within the poultry industry are working to avert a crisis and forestall a possible chicken shortage.
Managing Director at Gale’s Agro Products Barry Gale told Barbados TODAY that in consequence of a “mixup”, hatcheries are having to seek out buyers for a surplus of chicks, while large-scale producers try to fill the gap in unfulfilled orders as small farmers indicate they can not afford to sell chicken on the reduced cost being demanded by retailers.
During a press conference on Wednesday, chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul disclosed that some retailers were attempting to force small farmers to sell their produce at a reduced cost. Paul said that, unable to accomplish that, several farmers had due to this fact cancelled their orders at hatcheries.
Gale confirmed that the cancellations have been putting the industry under pressure.
“We now have just a few farmers which can be concerned concerning the profitability of farming chickens for a lot of reasons. In an effort to protect themselves, they’re canceling their baby chick purchases, often on the very last minute when those eggs are already within the incubators, and once they hatch out we want to seek out homes for them.
“So during the last two or three weeks now we have had quite a little bit of surplus on account of cancellations,” he said.
Gale explained that while the three major poultry producers – Chickmont, Star Chick, and Fasons Food (Amir Chicken) – had signed Government’s compact arrangement to sell whole chicken, chicken stew, chicken backs and chicken chop mix at a reduced price, the small farmers didn’t.
He added that only major supermarkets had subscribed to the programme, yet a number of the others in addition to some fast food entities were attempting to benefit from the arrangement.
“What they’re doing is that they’re leveraging this concept of reduced prices from the massive wholesalers and so they are putting it onto the small farmers as well, demanding that small farmers also give a reduced price.
“Invariably, small farmers are competing with larger producers based on price. They provide a cheaper price so for them to provide a reduction now will drop them into an unprofitable territory,” Gale said.
“I feel it’s a misunderstanding of outlets who’re pressuring small farmers . . . . I feel everyone seems to be attempting to capitalise on this concept that chicken prices should be reduced however the small farmer is the one paying the value.”
To satisfy the shortfall, Gale said the important producers were stepping as much as try to stop a shortage.
“I actually have been working with the producers to try to put what the small farmers haven’t been taking, so we try to guard the industry itself from being in need of chicken in six weeks,” he told Barbados TODAY.
President of the Barbados Egg and Poultry Association Stephen Layne added that it was necessary that a shortage didn’t occur into the Christmas season, as that might give some retailers an excuse to ramp up frozen chicken imports, which were “significantly undermining the industry”.
“There are not any guarantees in life, but immediately there isn’t a shortage . . . . With those cancellations we’re fighting to mitigate a shortage, not immediately but going into the vacation season,” he said.
Layne lamented that while the poultry industry is “trying desperately hard to make sure Barabdians have a source of fresh local chicken at a fairly inexpensive price”, competition from imports was making the environment very difficult to operate in.
He called on the Government to pay more attention to this development and to place measures in place to guard the local poultry industry that might not compromise its regional and international trade agreements.
Layne added that he also wanted the foremost poultry producers to think about adding greater value to their product by making their offerings more attractive to consumers.
He suggested that they may pre-prepare (pre-season or add stuffings to) whole chicken and/or chicken parts which would cut back the time needed to cook the produce.