Some local poultry producers are doubtful they can keep the pact they made with Legal Affairs Minister Peter Taylor back in December to keep the price of chicken within the $5.25 to $5.50 per pound range.
Newsday understands some members will express their views during the Poultry Association’s next meeting, as they can no longer bear the losses in the face of weekly grain (animal feed) price hikes.
At least one producer’s average live weight price of chicken per pound recently went up to $5.53 following hikes in transport costs.
Grain shipments due in next week will cost importers between 15 to 20 percent more. In addition, there have been weekly percentage increases over the last few months after corn crops and acreage were diverted to ethanol production, with added shortages due to drought and flooding.
The poultry producers want their Association to have an urgent meeting with the Minister to have their concerns addressed.
A similar pact, made in November 2006 with then Legal Affairs Minister Christine Kangaloo for “a price ceiling of $4.99 per pound ex-farm,” was kept for most of 2007, until prices inched up to $5.25 late in the year
Last December 2007 an agreement was made between Government, some producers and several supermarkets where E-Paks (economy packs) of chicken were sold at reduced prices to holders of the Smart Card. The move was intended to counteract the debilitating effects of rising food prices in low income consumers.
Chicken is the most popular choice of meat by local consumers, with an average of between 725,000 to 750,000 heads per week being sold.
While chicken prices have generally remained stable at the larger supermarket chains since December, there have been noticeable increases in smaller retail outlets across the country.
While one source admitted that some small retail outlets have slight differentials in price, a consumer who purchased chicken at a small neighbourhood grocery in West Trinidad told Newsday that very small whole chilled birds were going at an average of $25 on Friday.
While many who observe Lent usually fast from meat for the 40-day period, exorbitant fish prices have resulted in chicken sales remaining healthy, as many now only fast from meat on Fridays.
Consumers have already been hard hit by global price increases in commodities such as rice, flour, cheese, milk and eggs.
Just last week National Flour Mills acting CEO Anthony Joseph admitted that his company is in a “watch and see mode” as wheat prices are also increasing. NFM increased the prices of its flour two months ago.
Joseph said in a space of a year (2006 to 2007) a bushel of wheat had moved from just over US$4 to more than US$10.