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Healthy Caribbean poultry industry needs key ingredients

GEORGETOWN, Guyana.- If the right and timely decisions has been taken and implemented and supported by local, regional and foreign investments the Caribbean can sustain and expand its own poultry industry rather than consume the chemically “pumped up” foreign birds.

The ministers of Agriculture from Antigua and Barbuda and Guyana, respectively Hilson Baptiste and Leslie Ramsammy, made this observation Wednesday in an interview with journalists after the launch of the Caribbean Agricultural Extension Providers’ Network (CAEPnet) at the 12th Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) in Georgetown, Guyana.

Minister Baptiste contended that while the imported chicken is cheaper it poses a severe health threat to the people in the Caribbean. “One thing that scares me is that many of these countries that are producing the chicken that comes in the Caribbean don’t eat this chicken that they produce”, he stated. The official further argued that while the law of the average says that a chicken should be bred between six to eight weeks before it is slaughtered for consumption, poultry that is being imported into the region ages between three and four weeks. “Which mean that they are pumped up with all kind of hormones to get the weight. You get some legs, big as my hand”, minister Baptiste stressed pointing to his lower arm.

He therefore argue that if the people in the region knows what it eats and grow what it eats it will be much healthier. According to Baptiste currently the Caribbean is being confronted with all kind of diseases “that we never had before” partly because of the consumption of imported food stuffs. According to minister the region can produce its own poultry “but the problem is feed”. “We have to find a way to produce cheaper feed and better feed so we can produce our own birds cheaper. Now we have to import everything we need”, he said.

Guyana’s minister Ramsammy interjected by saying that feed is the main problem, due to the fact that the main imputus in the feed industry, corn and soy, has to be imported against very high costs. “The Caribbean can produce its own corn and soy and therefore reduce the cost of feed. But Antigua can’t do that…Guyana can do it, Suriname can do it”, he added since these two countries has the landmass for large scale production of mais and soy. Guyana, minister Ramsammy said, as part of the Jagdeo Initiative has embarked upon a program to produce all of the corn and soy that the Caribbean presently import. “We are going to transform the poultry industry into an industry that can compete financially with those of the more developed countries”, the Guyanese official said.

He noticed that consumers in the region and especially Guyana are becoming more aware of the health risks in foreign food products. For 2013 the Guyana government has issued 18 licenses to import chicken of which so far none have been utilized. “Because the Guyana public prefer the fresh Guyanese chicken to the imported chicken”, Ramsammy explained. According to minister Baptiste Antigua and Barbuda is importing EC$ 70 million annually in poultry products. He said that for his country to expand and improve chicken production some foreign investments are necessary. Baptiste warned however that “every imported investor has to include the local producer to help them improve their production and increase their production”. “Otherwise they can’t come”, he maintained. According to minister Guyana believes that it can “provide the answer to high cost of stock feed in the region”. The Caribbean Week of Agriculture concludes on Saturday October 12th.-.