Two months after promising to meet with the Grenada Association of Poultry Producers (GAPP), officials of the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government are still to have a sit down with members to discuss the recent increase in the price of animal feed by Caribbean Agro Industries (CAI).
According to GAPP President, Jason Phillip, no one from the government side has contacted the association to set a date for the publicly announced meeting.
“No, there has not been any such meeting – we have not been officially invited to any meeting. I have not been party to any discussion by the Cabinet Grouping as they would have publicly announced,” Phillip told THE NEW TODAY.
“At this point in time we have not heard anything back based on the promise made by government that they will look into it (the price hike) so that the matter can be addressed,” he said.
He also said, “there is neither a response, reaction (from government) – there is absolutely nothing and the frustrations are building because the farmers involved – we are still experiencing on a daily basis the losses and the frustrations involved in not being able to meet your commitments to the financial institutions (and) to your family.”
The NNP administration had announced the establishment of a Cabinet Subcommittee to address the 6% to 16% price hike at the end of January by Caribbean Agro on some of its products.
Trade Minister Alvin DaBreo who is a member of the sub-committee also announced that he would convene a meeting involving GAPP officials and other stakeholders to address the current situation.
THE NEW TODAY cannot independently confirm reports circulating on the island that government officials are yet to hold “direct” discussions with the local flour milling company on the recent price increases.
According to Phillip, the local poultry body was hoping that there could have been “a swift outcome in this situation” so that farmers and the public-at-large could bring closure to the issue and move on with their lives.
“…As for me I am not aware of any invitation to a meeting or any meeting that has occurred to inform us as to what has been the finding, what (are) the current circumstances they are working with, and what (are) the plans for moving forward,” he said.
The GAPP boss expressed disappointment that government has not been able to get back to poultry farmers “in a timely manner” to inform them on the outcome of the promised discussions with CAI itself on the price hikes which the State had publicly rejected.
He noted that the price increase announced by CAI were on items that fall into the category of price controlled and done without the permission of the government.
“If prices are increased without the control of the government then it means that the government has to step in and do what they have to do,” he said.
Phillip said that farmers have now reached “a breaking point” over the recent price increases in animal feed from CAI as they are having “a crippling effect” on its membership coupled with the government’s own failure to respond to the issue now at hand.
“This is a situation that can drive farmers mad and it is something that needs immediate attention,” he added.
He stated that the entire Cabinet of Ministers should understand the impact that these price increases from CAI are having not only on poultry farmers but the entire population as flour is a staple product.
According to Phillip, while poultry farmers are waiting for the promised meeting to take place, the current situation in the industry is that members are facing bankruptcy and frustration is growing rife among the farming community.
“Daily living is becoming a nightmare,” he said.
Phillip alluded to the fact that farmers are encountering problems in getting their products sold because they were forced to increase the cost of local chicken due to the hike in animal feed plus there has been a drop in consumption by the public as a result of the financial impact that Covid-19 is having on workers in the country.
He pointed out that some retail outlets, especially the local supermarkets are refusing to honour the price hike which the famers recently announced for chicken and are holding out and wanting to pay the prices that existed before Covid-19 struck the island.
“This is causing great pain and anguish to our farmers on a monthly basis. It is a very dire and serious situation,” he remarked.
“I have been receiving phone calls from several farmers not knowing how they are going to cover their mortgages, they don’t know even how they are going to pay for food to feed their families in the upcoming months,” he said.
Stating that farmers are frustrated over their plight, Phillip said that his members want the government to commit to the promise made to engage CAI on the recent price increase and get back to them as soon as possible.
The GAPP chief emphasised that the current situation boils down to a “bread and butter” issue for farmers in light of government’s own stated objective that it cares about the poor and vulnerable people in the country that are negatively affected by Covid-19.
“We are in most cases poor and vulnerable, we are a significantly affected group of individuals in the country that require immediate attention,” he said.
Phillip announced that dialogue will be held soon with farmers on the approach to be taken on the way forward in the industry.
On Wednesday, the GAPP President sent out another message to members of the association:
“As was previously announced, we have been suddenly notified by the hatchery the the cost of day old Layer chicks has been affected due to supply cost increases beyond their control. To this end the price increase will take effect April 25th 2021.
“The Grenada Association of Poultry Producers is unable to absorb the significance of this increase and the adjusted sale price is as follows:
Day old Layer Chick each EC$8.00
Turkey chicks remain at EC$20.00 each.
We apologise for any and all inconveniences caused”.