Rising costs spur chicken price hike
- Producers By Melanie Allicock
Kaieteur News
July 30, 2004

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Farmers in the poultry industry say the recent increase in chicken prices is a spin off of price hikes in a number of other commodities and services.

Chicken prices over the last few months have shown a 10-15% increase, causing alarm among consumers and government officials. Two days ago, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon announced that Cabinet had mandated an immediate collaborative investigation into the cause for the increase. Cabinet has also requested chicken production statistics.

The investigation is to be carried out by the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Other Livestock and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Commerce.

Luncheon said there are rumors of smuggling, exports and hoarding in the industry.

However, yesterday, a number of chicken farmers told Kaieteur News that they were forced to raise the price of their stock because of the price increase in gasoline, baby chicks and chicken feed.

Proprietrix of Buddy’s Farm in Yarowkabra, Meera Mokram, said her establishment was forced to raise the price of chicken by $25 each as the entire rearing operation is now costing more.

“The price of fuel has gone up; we are also paying more for baby chicks and Guyana Stockfeed has raised their cost for feed; labour costs have also increased, it is only natural that we would have to raise the price of chicken if we are to survive in this industry. Additionally our farm is at Yarowkabra where there is no electricity, so we have to use generator, which uses fuel,” she said.

Checks at Guyana Stockfeeds revealed that the price of chicken feed has increased by $100 per gallon over the last three months.

Company Secretary Chandra Persaud said the hike is as a result of an increase in the cost of raw materials for the feed, which are imported. He also disclosed that there has been a recent raise in the freight charges for the materials.

Persaud however believes that his increase in feed prices instituted in April cannot be the reason for the chicken price hike as stated by some farmers.

“The price of feed only went up three months ago and the effects cannot begin to filter down to them so soon.”

He stressed that the prices for his layer eggs, which he imports, and the baby chicks have not increased over the last year.

He believes that there has been an overall reduction in the production of chicken in the country.

Meanwhile Bounty Farm proprietor Patrick De Groot believes that there is much “ado about nothing” with regards to the increase in chicken prices.

He reiterates that over the years, there has always been a fluctuation in chicken prices, as with every other commodity.

According to him, the poultry industry experiences two ‘glut’ periods per year followed by two periods of shortfalls.

He believes that the country is just experiencing another shortfall period.

De Groot said he has requested a meeting with officials at the Office of the President in an effort to clarify the situation.

“I have invited them to come and inspect my farm at anytime to see our operations, but further, I would like to meet with them to try and clear up any questions that they might have, since it seems like government is not sure what is happening in the industry.”

He stressed that his poultry is strictly for the local market.

Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Manzoor Nadir said the inspection of the farms will begin next week in an effort to ascertain the supply capacities of the farmers and whether they are operating at their full capacities.

“We will be inspecting how much eggs are in the hatchery and so on because we want to alleviate this situation,” Nadir said.

He stressed that chicken prices cannot go up unless there is a shortage in supply and reiterated that his Ministry would get to the bottom of the situation to ensure that farmers are not hoarding and selling in limited quantity to drive the prices up.

Minister Nadir noted that even if the cost of a few other commodities has increased, the farmers should come up with cheaper and more innovative ways of production.

He disclosed that recent investigations reveal that none of the major producers of local chicken are exporting, as was rumored.

A Government Information Agency release quotes production statistics from the Bureau of Statistics as showing that the chicken production for this year has increased when compared to the period January-June 2003.

It shows that the domestic production increased from 2003 to 2004 in corresponding months, but in June this year there was a shortfall in production by 613.2 tonnes.

The same table indicates that Guyanese are consuming more chicken.

It shows that in recent months, some 2.250 tonnes of chicken are being consumed by Guyanese.

According to Minister Nadir, this trend should have been recognised by farmers, who should have increased their production level.

“They should have known that with increased income levels would come increased consumption and should have prepared for it,” he said.

Consumers have expressed concerns about the increase in chicken prices. Checks at the various retail outlets revealed that whole chickens are being sold at $180 per pound, up from $140.

Consumers buying by the pound are being asked to pay between $200 and $220.

Some consumers opined that they never experienced this price increase when chicken was being imported.

Chicken imports have declined since last year after local chicken farmers lobbied against it, describing it as unnecessary and promising that they could adequately provide the nation with local chicken.

Import tariffs were increased, contributing to the rapid expansion in domestic production.

Minister Nadir noted that although imports of chicken have fallen considerably, this was compensated for by the large increase in local production.

“So the decline in chicken imports should only have contributed marginally to the current shortage of the food item,” he said.