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Chicken prices flying high - Wholesale, retail outlets accused of 'unfair' hikes after Christmas season

Published:Sunday | January 3, 2016 | 1:00 AMCorey Robinson
Meat being loaded for transport after being purchased at a wholesale in downtown Kingston last Thursday.

Consumers, particularly cookshop operators across the Corporate Area, are flying high with rage in protest against "unfair" increases in the price of chicken at wholesales and retail outlets following a demanding Christmas season.

According to some consumers, they are now paying upwards of $200 per pound for chicken at some wholesales and retail outlets, an increase of about $50 per pound.

They also claim that at other locations, suppliers are either holding back on certain parts of the chicken or are playing "customer preference" with available stock.

"I don't understand how the people them pushing up their prices and Best Dressed Chicken and them place there where them buy it don't raise their prices. That is pure thief," Curtis Chisholm, owner of CC Cook Shop in Kingston, lamented last Tuesday.

Chisholm said he has had to discontinue purchasing chicken meat from two of his frequent retailers, one of whom increased chicken prices twice in December, the latest from $172 to $200 per pound. He noted that he refused to increase the price of his lunches.

"Market expensive and meat expensive; so I can't operate on the same level like before," explained Rosemarie Banton, who operates the God Bless Cook Shop outside the West Kingston Bus Terminus downtown.

"I used to order 50 or 60 pounds of chicken for the day. Now, sometimes I can only order 30 pounds because it too expensive. And when I could put two pieces of meat in a small lunch, now me can only put one, and the customers are complaining," she said, adding that even with the alteration to the meal, she still had to increase the price of her small lunches from $280 to $300 since Christmas.

POULTRY SCARCE

Last Thursday, a noisy group of customers, many of whom said they were purchasing chicken meat to sell to local shopkeepers and restaurants, pushed and squeezed each other at a wholesale downtown, trying to purchase its last bags of chicken before the New Year's Eve celebrations.

One worker screamed his response to queries posed by The Sunday Gleaner.

"Is pure whole chicken we have right now and is $200 a pound for them," he said, emphasising that poultry was scarce.

"How much you want? You have to go to the window down that side to order it, and if they don't know you, chances are you won't get it to buy," confessed the youngster beyond the elevated shop counter.

A supervisor at the store told The Sunday Gleaner that the outlet usually receives two containerloads of chicken each day. She said, however, that since Christmas, only two small trucks have been delivering the highly sought after meat to the location.

This has been the case since the week of Christmas, she said.

Last week, Ian Parsard, senior vice-president of finance and operations at the Jamaica Broilers Group, producers of Best Dressed Chicken, said his organisation did not increase chicken prices for the Christmas period and that he was not in support of partners who do so exorbitantly.

He said while there is not a shortage of chicken islandwide, there is excess demand for the meat, and that the demand is not projected to return to normal until about the second week in January.

"We haven't moved our prices for the Christmas season, and we would not expect folks who we partner with or supply and sell the product to take advantage and increase prices," he stressed, noting that he would have to discuss the matter with his marketing team.

He said $157 per pound for chicken parts sounded reasonable.

CB PRICE RAISED

In the meantime, Dr Keith Amiel, manager of corporate affairs at the Caribbean Broilers Group, said the price of CB Chicken was raised by at least three per cent for the Christmas season.

"The prices were adjusted slightly, but our price increase is minor in comparison to that of the supermarkets and so on," said Amiel.

"You have to realise that they mark up to the public up to 30 or 40 per cent, so our little three to five per cent is not a major concern. It is the wholesalers and retailers who have made a dramatic adjustment in prices," he argued.

"It is a free market and when we sell to the wholesalers, the wholesalers are free to adjust the prices, given the way they see fit," Amiel continued, explaining that there is no shortage of chicken islandwide as some 2.7 million kilograms or six million pounds of chicken meat were put into circulation for the week of Christmas alone.

A Sunday Gleaner probe of at least six wholesales and retailers downtown revealed that chicken parts were generally being sold for $200 per pound.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com