Let’s produce our own pig feed, says association head

THE expected increase in the cost of pork and its by-products has prompted a call from head of the Jamaica Pig Farmers Association, Annabel Williams for Jamaica to grow and produce its own feed.

This, as she said the devaluation of the dollar has affected the cost of feed for the animals, compounded by high demand from other countries for the grain produced in North America as well as an increase in fuel costs.

Speaking to the Jamaica Observer in an interview on Thursday, Williams pointed out that the price of the feed has increased by 28 per cent.

She said feed makes up 80 per cent of pig farmers’ production costs, which means that farmers’ price increase should go up “by 80 per cent of that 28 per cent”.

This, Williams said, would result in a roughly 22 per cent increase in the price of pork.

“There is a demand for the grain that we purchase in other parts of the world. So China is quite interested in our grain, for example, so there’s a competition going on for it. So, it has created a lot of instability in the market. The egg farmers are falling out. The chicken farmers are falling out. Everybody is falling, and that’s because we all have to use the grain.

“I’ve gone through a whole thing of trying to say we should grow our own feed — well, certainly more of our own feed. We couldn’t grow 100 per cent of our own feed but we could subsidise it. There are a lot of unused lands in Jamaica. We could plant something like cassava or maize or sorghum. You know? All of these things would help,” she told the Sunday Observer.

At the same time, Williams said that farmers may end up pricing themselves out of a market primarily because pork is not consumers’ first choice in terms of meat.

“Because of the need to increase the cost we could be pricing ourselves out of a market, but [still] there’s no point in a farmer producing something if he’s not getting a return on his investment – and that’s where the dilemma lies,” she said.

In a follow-up interview on Friday, Williams said that after meeting with Agriculture Minister Floyd Green the consensus was that “there is an understanding that the price for pork must increase”.

“They were concerned about how much feed prices were going to continue to be an impact with all of the industries that use the feed. So there is instability in the market at the minute and so we’re looking further down in the year that the feed prices should become more stable,” she said.

“The agreement that we came to is that yes, we need to be able to assist our farmers and be able to tell them and make these announcements that pig prices are going up. Please remember that that is 80 per cent of your cost, so we were in agreement,” she added.

In a news release on Thursday, the agriculture ministry said that the prices of pork and pork products were expected to increase by between 13-20 per cent.

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