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Jamaica's Pig Farmers Hopeful After Feed Tax Roll-back

by 5m Editor
11 June 2012, at 8:37am

JAMAICA - The organisation representing the country's pig farmers is optimistic that the recently revised tax measures will boost the sector, which two weeks ago had complained bitterly about the Government's imposition of a 16.5 per cent General Consumption Tax (GCT) on animal feeds.

The Jamaica Pig Farmers Association (JFPA) was among several stakeholders who had argued that the decision to tax animal feeds, represented a fatal blow for local livestock producers, reports Jamaica Observer.

Following intense lobbying by various farmers' associations, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips accepted that the tax on animal feeds would hurt the livestock sector and announced a removal of the measure.

But in a bid to plug the revenue shortfall he announced the imposition of additional duties on some food imports including fresh, chilled and frozen mutton or goat meat. All imports under this tariff will attract an additional stamp duty of 15 per cent, in addition to the Common External Tariff of five per cent, which currently applies to these goods. In addition to the current duties applicable to the importation of hams and bacons, an additional ten per cent was also imposed. These measures become effective on 1 July 2012.

Speaking with the Sunday Observer, Immediate Past President of the JFPA, Angella Bardowell said the removal of the GCT on animal feeds and the imposition of additional taxes on imported meats augur well for the country's pig farmers, who she says are well positioned to satisfy local demand for all pork products.

"Where we are looking now is exports, that's where our focus is. The new Sweet River Abbattoir is being built in Westmoreland, it will be FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) compliant, and so we will be able to export, because we are now able to satisfy local demand," said Ms Bardowell.

"We believe that if persons are going to import hams they should be charged higher duties, because we can produce enough legs to produce the hams for local demand, including that of the hotels, which already purchase hams and pork from the local industry," she explained.

Henry Graham, one of the partners involved in the building of the $200m abbattoir in Westmoreland says the facility, which will be ready by November of this year, will boost the sector. He explained that on completion, the property, which was purchased from food processors, Grace Kennedy will be able to facilitate the slaughter of 1,200 pigs on a weekly basis.

"In the first two years we will have a contract to supply the pork to Grace, who does the processing. But after that agreement expires we will be going into processing hams, bacon and all the works," said Mr Graham, who described the venture as the only state-of-the-art abbatoir and processing facility in Jamaica and the rest of the region.

Meanwhile, Ms Bardowell is suggesting that the high cost of production is the main factor that could prevent local pig farmers from supplying bacon, hams and other pork products at a lower price than imported items.

"... we really don't have much control over our inputs, because all the raw material for our main input, feed, is imported and so we start at a disadvantage when stacked up against the overseas farmers, who sometimes receive Government subsidies, and whose production costs are lower. It's all well and good to buy cheaper stuff from abroad, but everybody is looking at food security and if everybody decides to keep their pork for themselves then we will be in problems," said Ms Bardowell.