Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Need pork, Barbados? Jamaica eager to help

Published:Friday | January 20, 2017 | 1:00 AMTameka Gordon

Local meat processors are gearing up for exports to Barbados, where recent reports have highlighted a shortage of pig feed and ongoing shortfalls of pork going back two to three years.

Caribbean Broilers Group already exports feed to that market, but says the current conditions provide an opportunity to sell more supplies there.

Through its Nutramix subsidiary, CB ships 60-100 trailers of feed per month to countries such as Suriname, Guyana, Antigua, St Lucia, Dominica and Barbados, among others, said Corporate Affairs Manager Dr Keith Amiel.

Additionally, current talks between Caribbean governments on opening up trade of poultry and pork among countries, to counter the susceptibility of dependence on imports from North American territories, have rallied locals to take aim at the tiny island of 285,000 people.

"Barbados is one of the places that we are going to be first in line to send some pork to," said Hanif Brown, president of the Jamaica Pig Farmers' Association, while referencing the talks.

"I know that our processors, from last year, have been trying to meet some criteria for exports to Caricom countries. I'm very enthusiastic and optimistic that we should see something happening before the end of 2017," Brown said, adding that processors, because of the nature of their operations, will be the first to break into the Bajan market.

Once Jamaica gets "our foot in and that relationship is built, and the people are confident of the quality of produce they are getting, it will be good," Brown reasoned, though conceding the process has taken longer than anticipated.

Jamaica has got a passing grade from the Caribbean Agriculture Health and Food Safety Unit in a recent assessment of the country's phytosanitary controls.

Meantime, CEO of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, is downplaying reports of a pork shortage.

Paul said via telephone on Wednesday that the tightness in supply was only felt during the traditionally high-consumption Christmas period. As for the reports of low supplies of pig feed, Paul said only a few entities may be experiencing supply and demand challenges.

However, his take on the sector runs counter to the views of local processors and industry experts, among them Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ), which told the Financial Gleaner that the shortage of pork in Barbados is an "opportunity" for local companies.

"We are aware and its worth pursuing, but we won't be able to go after it immediately, because we have a bigger scope of plans for the region," said CEO David Lowe.

CPJ is engaged in "some very delicate negotiations with other markets", which it hopes will be executed by year end, Lowe added.

The Barbadian market is also not the easiest to enter, the businessman said, while advising companies with that ambition that "due diligence is important".

Local processors are hopeful that the trade barriers will be erased in 2017.

"We are ready to export," Amiel declared.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com