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Market gluts put small farmers in a ditch

LEANNE TASHER, [email protected]

Market gluts put small farmers in a ditch

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IMPORTED PRODUCE IS still posing a major threat to the agricultural sector. 

That’s according to two local stakeholders who told the SUNDAY SUN they’ve suffered major losses this year because of imports. 

They said the market remained overly competitive despite appeals from the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) for the relevant ministries to exercise greater control over imports. 

Jimmie Davis, a long-time food crop farmer, said belly pumpkin imports were stifling his sales. He feared losses amounting to $10 000 as a result of the recent over-supply of the crop in the market. 

“Imports don’t cause all the problems but it causes a major problem. In the last two months or so, there was a fair amount of pumpkin on the market. Once you don’t have a particular commodity on the market, the importers try to capitalise on that. 

“Sometimes imports create a glut. Sometimes it causes us not to be able to sell or pay wages. The Government needs to check with the importers and the supermarkets at that point in time to see if the produce is scarce; monitor the price… [and] do an independent analysis,” he said. 

Davis said he believed the authorities should not allow more than a quarter of the local supply to be imported. He explained that in recent weeks, he had been calling several establishments in hopes of selling the over 10 000 pounds of belly pumpkins he recently reaped but was told that they were fully stocked. He noted that last year, he had to put the vegetable, which he said has a two-month shelf life, in cold storage due to unfavourable weather conditions and could not afford another fall-off in sales. 

A small farmer for 15 years, Kelvin Jordan said he believed the importation of poultry also was getting out of control. Jordan, who was forced to close his business this year, said it was too difficult for the farmers to compete in the local market.

“Right now the importation got me lick up. This is a whole year now that I ain’t put chickens in my pen,” he lamented. “It puts my back against the wall. Right now I am in between minds about what to do, what path to take,” he said.

The 38-year-old called for local retailers and wholesalers to give small farmers “a chance”. He said, however, that poultry farmers needed to work together in order to meet the large demands. He said he believed businesses have “no choice but to import their chicken” since there was not enough camaraderie amongst small famers. 

“First things first, small farmers have to be more united … That’s one of the main reasons we are not successful … We as small farmers have to come together and say well this is what we have and this is what we will supply Barbados with,” he said. 

He noted that the difficult market environment meant that investments he made in 2005 were in vain. 

 “I spent $15 000 on a chicken pen and another $3 000 on solar panels, batteries, invertor, water tanks [etc] and still I have not made anything from it.

“The problem is the market is too competitive. If the chicken does sell for $10 a pound on the market you got to try and drop it lower than that. You got to sell it at about eight or nine dollars a pound,” he said. (LT)