Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Pig farmers back-track on pork imports

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Jamaica Pig Farmers Association (JPFA) now says it is opposed to a recent call from a few pork processors for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to grant permits for the importation of pork.

The organisation said its

concern centres on the bio-security of the local pork industry given the "current outbreak of virulent porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDV) in the United States and Canada and the devastating effect this could have on the local pork industry if it were to be introduced through imports".

The association's position on imports follows a week-old entreaty by Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier urging the market not to panic in the face of the reported shortages in the pork industry and for processors to resist the urge to choose imported alternatives.

media release

In an April 1 media release, the JPFA called for local processors to buy from other processors who, it said have "stocks from which they could sell to processors if needed".

"The call by processors for importation permits is a response to the temporary tightness of pork supply on the Jamaican market and the recent increase in the price of pork from local farmers," said JPFA.

The pig farmers say that local pork continues to be available at hotels, restaurants, retail and jerk pork outlets.

The current comments indicate a switch in position from views expressed by president of the JPFA, Hanif Brown, in February.

At the time, Brown spoke in favour of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) loosening its grip on the granting of import permits while pig farmers worked improving production, even as he stressed that such a reprieve should be so structured to protect against a complete over run of the local industry by imported pork.

"At a meeting in November, we all conceded that there was going to be a shortfall. It was agreed that the processors would indicate to the MOA what their demand was (and) the premise for allowing importation was set up only for a period not exceeding the demand for the first three months of 2015," Brown said in February.

He said the industry needed "something to cushion the shortfall", even as he noted that only the MOA had the wherewithal to create an import window.

appeal for patience

In last week's release, the JPFA appealed for patience from processors while noting that pig farmers were in the process of retooling their farms and breeding herds to address the shortfall in pig production that has been ongoing since November 2014.

"In fact, the current price for pork of $160 per pound live weight will allow farmers to cover their direct production costs and begin the process of paying outstanding bills," the release said.

The association indicated that the problems being experienced by its members today links back to a glut of pork meat back in 2012 and 2013, which wiped out their profits.

At the time, direct production cost per animal stood at about $130 per pound live weight before factoring for returns on capital, but that farmers were earning "a low of $70 per pound", from the market.

The result was a massive sell-off of animals and the culling of the breeding herds by about 40 per cent, bringing supply and demand closer to equilibrium, JPFA said.

The association says it now expects supplies to normalise by June, if imports are not brought into the mix.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com