Pork glut hits local industry
It is not on the official agenda, but the pork glut that now threatens to throw the industry into a tailspin will likely be discussed at today's press conference called by the agriculture ministry at its St Andrew office to provide updates on the status of the Agricultural Credit Board (ACB), as well as the issue of import permits for produce.
"We currently have some 500,000 kilograms of pork in storage, for the first time ever," Hanif Brown, president of the Jamaica Pig Farmers Association, shared with The Gleaner yesterday.
He was responding to queries about the claim by Dr Dayton Campbell, opposition spokesman on agriculture, that the Government precipitated the glut by flooding the market with imported pork and pork products, among other things. Brown disclosed that from last October, there were strong indications that pork sales were on the decline.
"Farmers were calling and telling us that places they normally sell to were saying, 'Listen, we don't need so much pork right now,'" he said.
This triggered speculation and allegations of the local market being undermined by imports.
However, the president said checks with the ministry indicated that any such importation would have been illegal.
"Two ministers have assured me that there have been no permits granted for the importation of pork. They indicated that the quantity of bellies and pig's tail that they grant permits for last year was the lowest ever, over the last five years. I believe the ministry, but does it mean that some individual or somebody could not have brought in pork?" he admitted.
Meanwhile, Dr Keith Amiel, corporate affairs manager for the Caribbean Broilers Group, which supplies more than a quarter of the pork to the local market, under its Copperwood and Caribbean Passion brands, admitted that the company was also hurting from the oversupply.
"We have both whole carcasses and every cut of pork in storage. We produced at a rate that was required for the Christmas and tourist industry, but what apparently has happened is that the rest of people, having made money out of pork last year, decided to keep (and breed) more sows than would be advisable, based on the amount of takeoff during the year, up until Christmas. So that they are finding it difficult to get rid of finished products in the usual way," Amiel explained.
Dr Campbell has also questioned the motive and rationale for the sudden firing of the entire board of the ACB by Karl Samuda, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, given its pivotal role in facilitating and regulating credit to the agriculture sector.