Jamaicans Mixed on Govt’s Decision to Import Chicken Meat


There are mixed reactions from consumers to the Government’s decision to grant permits for the importation of 625,000 kg or 25 containers of chicken leg quarters.
Agriculture Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that the move is aimed at filling a shortage in production, as indicated by the main producers, as well as ensuring that the price of the commodity is not increased.
He advised a media briefing on December 15 that the Ministry had projected a two million kilogram (kg) shortfall in production this year, with a likely one million deficit for the last quarter of the year. He informed that the major producers had indicated that their output would decrease by 815,179 kg between November and December.
JIS News finds that while some consumers support the move by the Government as a means of ensuring adequate supplies, some are against it, while there are others, who, while not necessarily for or against the importations, are more concerned that quality meat are being brought into the island.
Barbara Grant*, a hospital supervisor, who heads a family of four, sees nothing wrong with the decision.
“If the need has arisen to bring in extra supplies because there is an increase in demand, which local stakeholders are unable to meet, particularly at this time of the year. Christmas. when chicken meat is consumed in significantly large volumes, then steps need to be taken to fill the gap where the shortfall exists. If it therefore means, importations, then by all means, this should be done,” Mrs. Grant states.
Regarding concerns that the importations may be seen as contrary to the Government’s thrust of attaining food security, underpinned by the mantra: “Eat what we grow, Grow what we eat”, Mrs. Grant disagrees. She contends that importation of chicken or any other commodity, produced in Jamaica, should be seen as the administration’s effort to safeguard supplies to consumers, as they work towards ensuring that the country is able to produce the products in adequate quantities in the future.
Sonja Reid*, an insurance executive, also supports the move to facilitate the importation of chicken meat, and regards it as a means of ensuring that consumers, are not caught “high and dry”.
“It’s not a bad decision because the Government needs to ensure that at this time of the year, in particular, when, traditionally, there is usually increased demand for the product, there are adequate supplies. This, of course, once it has been established that local producers are or may not be able to supply the requisite volumes to fill the demand,” Ms. Reid says.
Noreen Wellington*, a security officer, who has a family of four, is not in agreement with importations, and voiced her concerns about the quality of what will be brought in, as well as the cost to consumers.She argues that the country would, instead, be better served if increased resources are put into the local poultry sector, thereby assisting stakeholders to enhance its productive capacity.
Technician, Marsden Sullivan*, whose family consumes a lot of chicken meat, says that while he is not opposed to importations, the requisite monitoring mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that what he terms “discarded refuse”, is not imported into the island.
Mr. Sullivan, who heads a family of three, takes issue with some of the imports, which he says he has seen in the past, were nowhere near the quality of the locally produced meat.
“Based on some of what I have seen, the meat looks very unattractive and unappetizing. I would hate to think that we end up bringing in meat that individuals in another country has rejected and thrown out, and we are consuming it; that could not work and would be totally unacceptable. So, while my wish is for local producers to be the ones who supply the market, if the need for importations arises, and there is no other way around filling the shortage, then so be it. But efforts must be made to ensure that we are getting the best for the money being paid,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Sullivan’s wife, Keneshia*, is however opposed to the idea. “Why should we import chicken leg quarters, when we have more than capable producers here,” she questions.
“I believe that over the years, the powers that be, would have seen the pattern of consumption, and would be cognizant of the times of the year when there is heightened consumption of the commodity, as against when there is a fall off. As such, I believe that if they are equipped with that knowledge, then they should be in a position to provide the necessary resources, which will significantly enhance the productive capacity of the local poultry producers, thereby ensuring that they are able to meet market demand, no matter what the status of the availability is at a particular point in time. They must be empowered to rise to the occasion and deliver,” she opines.
Paula Mendez-Andrews*, an administrator, whose household numbers five, does not favour imported chicken, citing that the quality is inferior to the local product.
“I have had it, and it tastes nowhere near the high quality meat that we produce right here at home. In fact, even apart from what the big producers of chicken meat, Jamaica Broilers, and Caribbean Broilers supply to the market, I have gotten chicken from ordinary persons, raising birds in their backyards, and those, to me, taste better than the imports. That aside, however, I agree with the sentiments that if the need to import arises, then every effort must be made to ensure that we are getting the best from the source, and not anything undesirable,” Mrs. Mendez-Andrews says.
Regarding the quality and standard of the imports, Dr. Tufton, at the December 15 press conference, assured that the chicken leg quarters being imported, are of the highest quality and meet rigorous safety standards.
He advised that the products, which are being brought in from the United States of America, are certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and local health authorities.
“This product is certified not only by our local agencies but also from the country of origin and the evidence is there to support that. Therefore, the consumers have nothing to worry about,” he informed.
He added that the strongest safety measures and procedures are always undertaken to ensure that the highest quality meats are imported into the island. He explained that the Ministry has responsibility for safeguarding public health, and ensuring that all products imported for human consumption, meet the required health standards.
“Prior to the issue of an [import] permit, the applicant must demonstrate that adequate cold storage facilities are available to meet the minimum required standards. These facilities are then inspected by the competent authority for compliance,” Dr. Tufton outlined.
He further informed that all imported meats and meat products will have the relevant veterinary health certification attesting to wholesomeness, adding that “copies of these certificates may be viewed at the Veterinary Services Division.”

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