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No to hike as first option

Minister weighs in on Pinnacle’s plan to raise feed prices

Article by: Shawn Cumberbatch taken from the Nation News Paper – October 11, 2022

ALL OPTIONS must be exhausted before Barbadians are forced to pay more for meat and poultry products resulting from a hike in feed prices by manufacturer Pinnacle Feeds Limited.

Minister of Energy and Business Development Kerrie Symmonds made this clear yesterday, adding that Government was also expecting that, in the spirit of the six-month Food Prices Compact signed in July, signatories to the deal would make all efforts “to restrain markups”.

Symmonds, who is Senior Minister responsible for coordinating the productive sector, confirmed yesterday that last Thursday he convened a meeting involving representatives of Pinnacle Feeds, the Minister of Agriculture and the president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

On Friday, two days after the farming community revealed that Pinnacle Feeds had indicated a rise in feed prices linked to increased feed input costs was coming, the company said it was “currently reviewing all of our options concerning the rising costs of inputs to our product [and] during this review, we will not be raising prices”.

Symmonds told the DAILY NATION he was very appreciative of the effort merchants were making to not increase their mark-ups on 44 essential items as agreed within the prices compact.

“This is a difficult economy and every company in Barbados is having difficulty and to ask people to restrain markups is not an easy ask,” he acknowledged.

Financial difficulty

However, the minister stressed that exiting the compact, which is scheduled to expire on January 31, could not reasonably be the first option for signatories facing financial difficulty.

Following last week’s meeting chaired by Symmonds, Pinnacle Feeds’ representatives agreed to provide the Ministry of Agriculture with financial information so the authorities and the company can determine if an alternative to increasing feed prices can be found.

“. . . . There clearly would have to be the sharing of the financial information with the Ministry of Agriculture so that the Ministry of Agriculture would be in a position to say that there is an authentic and legitimate concern arising from the commitments made under the compact,” he said.

“That information up to Thursday had not been shared, so the first takeaway of the meeting was that they would have to share that information,” Symmonds added. “I am happy that they have started to do so. I can’t tell you as yet all that was requested has been received, but I do know that the process began, and it puts the Ministry of Agriculture in a position to do some analysis.”

He said beyond the ministry’s role in the matter, it had to involve Government. “I made it clear to Pinnacle that we have to exhaust all options before we come to negatively impacting consumers. I think that is fair, and the Government would be prepared to work with Pinnacle on a number of options, including, if need be, trying to source at more competitive prices the inputs that they need,” he said.

Appreciative

Asked about the possibility that other companies might also want to exit the prices compact, Symmonds said: “I am very appreciative of the effort that has been made, and I want to say that on the basis of the figures that I see, a lot of companies have honoured their commitment in the contract and are doing a very good job in the context of prices that we know continue to rise.”

He added: “The reality is that this is being done in the wider interests of the Barbadian public and the Barbadian consumer, who was under a tremendous amount of pressure.

“When the interventions were made, I think that the Social Partnership as a whole understood the importance of trying to maintain stability in the country by Government and the private sector and labour doing the best they can to work together in difficult times.”

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