The local poultry association is clamouring for lower prices to buy feed for their birds.
Strategic Manager of the Grenada Association of Poultry Farmers (GAPF), Joshua Lewis told a radio talk show programme on Tuesday that the cost of feed is very dear to the heart of farmers and need to be much lower.
He lamented the fact that up to seventy percent of the cost for farmers in production is feed, and this is a very sensitive issue that needs to be addressed by the authorities.
Lewis recalled that about 40 years ago, the Government of Grenada under Sir Eric Matthew Gairy entered into an agreement to give concessions to Caribbean Agro Industries to develop the local poultry industry through a hatchery, processing plant, supply of chicks and feed to local farmers, and to repurchase the birds when they are ready.
He said that implementation of the agreement never happened and suggested that the government got into the agreement and seemed to have forgotten it.
“Caribbean Agro, basically has taken advantage of the fact that government comes and goes, (and) public servants are not always on the ball as they should be…”, he said.
“So for over 40 years we’ve had a situation whereby this company has taken all the kind of allowances, all the incentives and all the concessions, and they have not done their part in terms of developing the industry,” he added.
Lewis accused Caribbean Agro of having a much different price structure in place for the cost of feed in Grenada when compared to other countries.
He said on the local market the feed is sold at $42.00 while the price of a bag in St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua is pegged at $32.00 or less by companies operating there.
The Strategic Manager noted that in 2012, the poultry association met with then Prime Minister Tillman Thomas to discuss the plight of the industry and he instructed that feed should be allowed to be imported from Trinidad.
He said this decision was never implemented as the public servants prevented it.
“The public servants do one thing, and the political leaders advice something else,” he quipped.
Lewis felt that if the former Prime Minister’s instructions were adhered to, Caribbean Agro would have been forced to reduce its prices because of competition.
“When you have an industry without competition, you have a situation where essentially companies could do what they want,” he said.
The GPFA member believes that one of the major challenges affecting Grenada is the signing of international agreements without fully considering the implications.
He spoke of Grenada being party to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which should help stimulate growth in the economy, but has not been seeing the evidence of this happening.
Lewis said that countries like the United States and Brazil, where most of the poultry products are produced are manipulating the system to their advantage.
He charged that the domestic poultry industry has not been able to realise its potential.
He pointed out that the more wealth industrialized countries in the north have a policy of subsidising their poultry industry.
He said once there is this distortion in trade, the local farmers cannot compete because “the playing field is not level.”
According to Lewis, the life of a poultry farmer is not an easy one and that it is a challenge.
He pointed an accusing finger at the commercial banks on the island, saying that they are very reluctant to provide financing to the poultry industry.
“They’re worried that if they were to finance the industry because we have no anti-dumping legislation a man could just bring a few containers (of poultry meat) and sell it (at) little or no cost and undermine the local industry,” he told the host of the programme.
Lewis disclosed that Grenada’s import bill for poultry meat currently stands at $62M annually.
“When I think about $62M I think about $62M just flying in the wind out to America. I don’t think the American Farmers or economy really need our money. I think we need our money in terms of the (poultry) industry,” he said.
GAPF has been functioning for over 20 years with a membership of 450 farmers who produce eggs and also meat.
Lewis called for a change in the system to ensure that every stakeholder benefits from the poultry industry.
“You cannot protect the few at the expense of the many. We have 450 (poultry) farmers, probably another 450 workers, and then we have a system whereby we have few importers… but the system has to be realigned or change so all the stakeholders can get a piece of the pie,” he said.