Agriculture Minister Defends Decision to Import Chicken Meat


Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has defended Government’s decision to grant import permits for leg quarters, stating that the move was to meet a shortage in production, as indicated by the main chicken producers, and to ensure that there would be no increase in price.
Dr. Tufton, speaking at a press conference, held at the Ministry’s headquarters in Kingston today (Dec. 15), said that a meeting was held on September 19, with senior management of the main poultry providers, Jamaica Broilers and Caribbean Broilers, and representatives of the Ministries of Industry and Commerce, and Agriculture.
“At that meeting,” he said, “the Ministry indicated a projected shortfall of two million kilograms (kg) for the year and approximately one million kg for the upcoming quarter. The producers requested time to review the figure and subsequently reported back to the Ministry,” he told journalists.
He noted that figures supplied by Jamaica Broilers and Caribbean Broilers, based on placement with contract farmers and sale of day-old chickens, indicated a shortfall of 815,179 kg for the months of November and December.
He posited also, that the Government was concerned that any shortage of chicken for the period would lead to additional price increases over what had already taken place during the course of the year, adding that this would “place additional hardships on an already pressured consuming public.”
It was based on this, he said, that the Government decided to grant permits for the importation of 625,000 kg or 25 containers of leg quarters.
Dr. Tufton noted that each importer would incur a duty of 40 per cent, down from 260 per cent, to facilitate affordable prices for the consumers, while allowing the local producers an opportunity to compete.
He said that no importer received more than the equivalent of 25,000 kg of import volume, in keeping with the Government’s intention to promote competition and better prices for consumers.
Stating that the approach was not confined to the poultry industry, Dr. Tufton said permits were granted for the importation of 771,818 kg of pork this year, which is a reduction over 2007.
In addition, he indicated that this year’s figures, represented the lowest volume of import permits granted over the last 10 years, with imports as high as 17,050,000 kg in 1998; 12,000,000 kg in 1997; 7,875,000 kg in 2004; and 825,000 kg in 2007.
In the meantime, the Minister informed that a meeting is to be held on Wednesday (Dec. 17) with the broiler companies “to hear their concerns, to explain our own position.and to re-assure them.”
Dr. Tufton said that every year at this time, the market experiences a peak in demand for chicken meat, and the granting of the permits would ensure that the appropriate balance was stuck between the need of the consumers “and the need to ensure that our local poultry sector is protected and preserved for the future.”
“Our mandate at the Ministry is to partner with all stakeholders to build production and productivity capacity within agriculture, in keeping with our food security strategy. This is not an event, but a process, which must be done in a manner that the Jamaican people are always at the centre of our concerns,” Dr. Tufton affirmed.

JIS Social