Former President of the Grenada Association of Poultry Producers (GAPP), Jason Phillip has admitted that Caribbean Agro Industries (CAI) has put forward a proposal on offering members a price reduction on the purchase of animal feed.
Speaking to THE NEW TODAY, Phillip acknowledged that the proposal was put on the table for negotiation but denied having any knowledge that it died a natural death after the then Trade Minister Oliver Joseph intervened and demanded that the offer be extended to all farmers around the island.
“I was around when the organisation had some form of arrangement with Caribbean Agro Industries – I was not the President at the time,” he said.
According to Phillip, the GAPP boss at the time was police officer Trevor Rodney and that he himself held a position as a Floor Member of the body.
“Basically what it was – was to try to reach some kind of understanding with Caribbean Agro to find a way to help the farmers benefit and for Caribbean Agro to become part of the development of the industry,” he said.
The former GAPP boss pointed out that during the initial discussions, the association was trying to seek its own interest in the offer that was made and had convened several meetings with CAI management to try to get from them an understanding of where things stand with them in the development of the poultry industry.
He said there was no agreement between the two sides and that the talks had reached the stage at looking at “bulk rate pricing” so that the association could possibly broker a deal on behalf of all the poultry farmers to benefit from “slightly better pricing”.
“So let us say if the association was to purchase bulk feed for all the farmers then the rate that you will get is as if one large person was purchasing for everyone and then the association can pass on the benefits to its members” he added.
He also said that there was another component put on the table for discussion in which Caribbean Agro would make some kind of assistance towards the development of the industry directly through the association.
“That was not concrete – that was just discussion – it was a discussion where the idea was put forward that some form of financial contribution – whether it was by the sale of the bags to the association … not just all feed. That was just a discussion at the time,” he said.
“…Whatever the association will buy that Caribbean Agro will contribute to a fund – whether it was a dollar or two towards a bag and that will go into a fund and that there will be a set time of the year or a set time of the month where that money will be handed over to the association to further the development of the association and its members,” he added.
However, Phillip disclosed that before GAPP could take the proposal further it decided to convene a meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture to update government officials on the preliminary discussions taking place with CAI.
He spoke of a regional manager from a sister company of CAI in Jamaica being dispatched to Grenada around the same time to hold talks with both the local milling company and the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to help advance things in moving forward.
Phillip told THE NEW TODAY: “The government’s position at that time was that they did not want the association to move forward with discussions or any arrangements because the government was doing its own negotiations through the Ministry of Agriculture with regards to Caribbean Agro on general matters.
“And so the instructions that came from the Ministry of Agriculture through the Permanent Secretary were not just to delay but to stop all ongoing discussions or any potential for a negotiations between the association and Caribbean Agro because the talks that the government was having with Caribbean Agro should take priority and so that they could have the leverage to do what they need to do.
So since that has happened there has been no feedback, there has been nothing coming back (and) more or less that entire situation has more or less ghosted if I can put it in that term – I think the whole situation has been ghosted because I have not been given an update since and this is since before Covid-19 started, so it is more than two years now.
When told that Minister Joseph allegedly rejected the CAI offer to assist only poultry farmers on reduced price for animal feed and demanded an across the board reduction for all famers in the country, Philip said: “…We were not aware that the minister went to that extent.”
He went on to say: “The association at that point in time in good faith, given the fact of the nature of poultry farmers’ relationship with the mill, it is the mainstay for the business, the association saw it fit to convene meetings with Caribbean Agro to at least come to some consensus as to where things are.
“The meetings were very cordial, there were no commitments made on either side. It was open discussions but the discussions got to the point where both parties were prepared to commit. However, the association actually instructed Caribbean Agro that before moving forward with anything, obviously we had to convene and had to update the Ministry of Agriculture where we’re at, what’s going on and what is proposed to get their buy-in before making any move of that sort.
“It was after convening (and briefing) the Permanent Secretary at the time on what was going on… basically they seemed to be somewhat upset about the situation and they instructed us to cease and desist because the government itself was going through its own set of negotiations and this is before the Covid-19.
If that was the situation that the minister did, he basically single handedly (is) responsible for causing grave damage to the poultry farmers.”
Phillip stressed that poultry feed sells more in Grenada than any other type of feed for animals and that the feed sale for cattle, pigs and rabbit – are negligible when compared to poultry sale.
He described as “foolhardy” and “ridiculous” any attempt by government to leverage the proposal on poultry feed for farmers in the industry with those of other animals given the differences in volume of sale.
“I don’t know who taught them how to negotiate but that is ridiculous,” he said.