Farmers struggle as glut puts freeze on pork demand
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
WEST CENTRAL St Catherine Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Ken Baugh is lamenting the collapse of a pig-farm project at the Tacius Golding High School, established with funds from his allocation under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
According to Baugh, several small farmers in the constituency have invested in pigs and other livestock but have become victims of what he describes "as the failure of the rural agriculture economy".
"Pig farmers in my constituency have been unable to sell pork and unable to feed their pigs," Baugh said during his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament on Tuesday.
He called for a clear policy for the prevention of a glut on the market, arguing that the mass importation of pork is having a deleterious effect on the livelihood of many Jamaican farmers.
The MP told Parliament that he provided eight sows for the project, which grew to a maximum of 57 pigs.
"That project has collapsed because they are no longer able to feed the pigs because they can't buy the feed and there is no sale for the pork," Baugh said.
He added: "My own farmers tell me of the days when they used to have to hide from people who wanted pork because they didn't have enough. Even though some of them have 500 pigs, … they can't sell, and when they go to their usual contacts, they are told 'we can get it off the wharf cheaply'."
MARKET PUNISHING FARMERS
Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke, speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Wednesday, said the market was currently punishing farmers due to a glut in pork production.
"Glut with pig has been a perennial problem," Clarke said.
He noted that with the entry of larger players into pig farming as well as the introduction of improved pig stock, the production of pork has increased.
"There are individual investments in the pig industry now, upwards of $200 million. These are farmers with 2,000 sows," Clarke said.
He told the Editors' Forum that the large farmers have entered into arrangements for the sale of their produce and, in some instances, have blocked the small farmers from the market.
"We have to try to see how much export we can do," Clarke said, adding that it might not even make sense to look to CARICOM for markets as "some of the countries in CARICOM don't have as much people as Portmore (in St Catherine)".
He added: "There is no major market and you cannot access the US market."
Clarke said Jamaicans should face the reality that "we have too much animals" and recognise that attrition would be a major element of glut management for pork.
He noted that Caribbean Broilers, a purchaser of pork, has started a major pig farm, which will mean further challenges for local pig farmers.