By Vishani Ragobeer
A detailed analysis of the agricultural sector and imports of several countries within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has revealed that nearly all of the poultry meat consumed in the region in 2020 was imported at the cost of millions.
Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali, who presented this analysis to other CARICOM leaders on Tuesday, has offered solutions to cut imports by producing more poultry and feed in the region.
President Ali highlighted that in extra-regional markets (that is, countries outside of CARICOM) supplied an estimated 98.8 per cent of the poultry imported by CARICOM member states in 2020.
Those poultry imports, ranging from the meat of ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea fowls that are fresh, chilled or frozen was US$ 242.288 million.
Only 1.2 per cent of poultry demanded was imported from within the region. And in that same year, only six CARICOM countries- Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago- produced 83 per cent of the poultry in the region.
To illustrate just how sizable the region’s poultry imports are, the Guyanese Head-of-State provided figures which illustrated that poultry meat is the product with the sixth-largest volume of imports in the region.
The other products imported in much larger volumes are rice, wheat, corn, sugar and edible vegetables and roots.
Additionally, the import of poultry meat is the region’s third most expensive import product, at a value of US $746.8 million. Only dairy products and rice cost the region more, with dairy imports costing US $1.02 billion and rice, a cost of US $980.5 million.
Importantly, poultry plants in these six aforementioned CARICOM Member States met the sanitary requirements to enter the CARICOM Market in 2018. And as such, there appears to be greater leeway to scale-up production.
This leeway exists in the specific ways countries can reduce imports by satisfying their individual demands.
For example, Guyana spent about US $4.7 million importing poultry products in 2020, with a notable demand for sausages. The President, however, noted that investments in value-added capacity to produce canned and other sausages could allow the country to replace imports of processed products.
In Trinidad and Tobago, where there is a high demand for certain cuts of meat, President Ali said that opportunities should be considered for investment in mechanical deboning facilities and the production of leg quarters to satisfy the import demand.
In Suriname, investment in a certified processing plant could see that country displacing poultry imports and potentially earning millions in revenue from the use and export of poultry products.
Similarly, in other countries, key demands were identified and broad strategies for replacing imports with local or regionally produced poultry products were outlined.
Dr. Ali’s analysis of the agricultural sectors across the Caribbean was crafted from information submitted by 10 countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Guyana, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
And it forms part of his well-commended thrust for cutting the region’s massive import bill – pegged at more than US $4 billion annually- by 25 per cent by 2025.
President Ali is the Lead Head of Government for agriculture in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Quasi-Cabinet and he presented these solutions at the Thirty-Third Inter-Sessional Meeting of Heads of Government of CARICOM in Belize.