‘Not a free hand’
THE RULES of trade liberalisation have tied Barbados’ hands on what it can do to protect local milk and other products.
Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn, made this admission yesterday after talks with milk producers and processors worried that new imports will badly hurt their sales.
The former Minister of Agriculture told the SATURDAY SUN that Barbados could not object to such imports or put up trade barriers under World Trade Organisation rules agreed to as far back as 2000.
He pointed out that the old system of import licensing that protected such commodities had been disbanded.
However, he said he was looking to re-establish the convention of dialogue involving importers, local producers and Government departments.
“All involved should know what is at stake, what is being imported and the possible impact on local production,” Benn explained.
“It is a bit unfair to have farmers producing a product, only to find that the market is shrinking.”
Benn had two hours of talks at his Bridgetown office yesterday with dairy farmers, as well as representatives of the Pine Hill Dairy (PHD), which processes their milk.
This followed reports that Carlton and Emerald City supermarkets were importing fresh milk.
PHD officials say the imports are a cause for concern because they can supply all the milk Barbados needs.
Benn, who visited Carlton Supermarket yesterday afternoon to see the imports, said that at the Bridgetown Port the milk had met all the health standards for imports.