JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that the Government’s decision to import chicken leg quarters at this time, is intended to cushion any possibility of price increases, and to protect local producers.
“It is a balancing act and this particular year, when prices have been trending upwards, we must ensure that a balance is struck, so that all socio-economic groups can access this very popular protein, and local producers are protected,” Dr. Tufton explained, in an interview with JIS News.
The Minister pointed out that “99 per cent of Jamaicans choose chicken as a staple.”
Dr. Tufton said that every year at this time, the market experiences a peak in demand for chicken meat, and that the Ministry of Agriculture monitors local production and grants permits, if necessary, to ensure that there is sufficient supply between local production and imports.
“Data derived from the poultry breeders on the number of chicks sold to the marketplace have indicated a two million kilogramme shortfall over last year,” he informed, noting that “permits were granted for over 600,000 kilogrammes of leg quarters, which is still less than the shortfall.”
According to the Minister, the imported leg quarters attract a 40 per cent import duty, “so not only does it allow latitude for local poultry providers to compete, but it provides consumers with the option of local or imported meat, although in a minimal way, as the quantity of imports is relatively small.”
“More importantly,” the Minister said, “it ensures that the price of chicken meat remains stable at this time. The price of chicken tends to increase by between three and five per cent during this period, so the Government took a position, given the hike in prices of food items over the past year, to minimise any possibility of further increases.”
Dr. Tufton pointed out that this is a short-term arrangement that would not last beyond early in the New Year, at which time “we will go back to the normal importation of chicken backs.” He informed that leg quarters are not imported during the year.
Approximately 10 per cent of the imports have already arrived in Jamaica and the rest is due over the next two to three weeks. “So overall, this is not expected to have a large impact on the local industry,” the Minister said.
“The local poultry industry enjoys a large 260 per cent duty protection, which was put in place by previous administrations and is supported by this Government, because of the importance of poultry meat,” he noted.
Dr. Tufton pointed out that the importation of leg quarters at this time is not unusual, adding that the Ministry has taken great care to work closer with the poultry sector.
“In the past, leg quarters and chicken backs were imported monthly, but this administration stopped the importation of leg quarters during the course of the year and only allowed chicken back to come in, giving local producers a breathing space. We have only imported during the peak season and this is something that is done routinely by various administrations,” the Minister explained.

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