Last month, the Member of Parliament for Couva North issued a press release entitled “Chicken prices set to increase this Christmas season – Government neglecting T&T’s poultry industry!” In this, the MP highlighted several reasons for the increase, as well as the inability by the Government to put measures in place that would address those factors contributing to the rising cost of poultry. The MP also called on the Minister to adopt a structured, needs-based approach towards poultry farming in T&T.
Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Clarence Rambharat responded by saying that there was no shortage in the supply of chickens and that the Government was not involved in setting the price of poultry, as this is determined by the private sector. However, checks with various pluck shops show that since last month, they have been issued with purchasing quotas. This can only be attributed to a shortfall in the supply of poultry.
This contraction in supply, MP Ratiram contends, is due to several reasons, at the top of which is a general lack of concern by the Rowley-led Government for expanding the poultry sector from a production standpoint. This is because there is no corresponding investment into the production line, creating an industry where only a few very large poultry integrators can survive.
It is a fact that poultry farming is heavily capital intensive in nature, and the incentive structure currently in place is not working. For instance, while a fifty-thousand dollar ($50,000) rebate is offered for the construction of poultry farms, the processing of this rebate takes anywhere between one and a half to two years!
MP Ratiram claims that this Government has also failed our farmers because of the lack of development of the grain sector and alternative feedstock. Related to this is the lack of availability of foreign exchange as a result of PNM economic mismanagement. This complete disregard by the Government towards our poultry farmers has not only created a dependency on feed imports but has placed them at the mercy of open market prices.
Finally, the Government’s cluelessness is most apparent in its lack of a projected developmental strategy for poultry farming. Poultry farming requires a complete rethinking of the approach that this Rowley-led Government has been using; what is needed is the development of a commodity-based system at the national level.
The MP for Couva North therefore calls on the Government to stop making excuses for its incompetence. The Rowley-led PNM has failed our poultry farmers and our suffering citizens who are paying the ultimate price for their mismanagement and cluelessness. Our citizens deserve better!