Abaco Big Bird Operation Manager Lance Pinder said yesterday the government’s commitment to support the local poultry industry shows it is thinking outside the box.
Prime Minister Philip Davis announced during his 2022/2023 budget communication that the government will provide support to local poultry producers by assisting in lowering the cost of electricity, among other things.
“I had been in discussions with them for the last couple of weeks because the government was very concerned about food prices and they wanted to find out how they can support us and help bring food prices down. I know we were in discussions with getting some assistance to reduce our electricity costs,” Pinder told Guardian Business yesterday.
“I know with the electricity, we had talked about sort of a subsidy at a certain percentage.
“Electricity has always been a big cost for any sort of operation, because if you want to do it properly, you need a lot of refrigeration and a lot of ice production, so it has always been a big cost.
“But it is a departure from anything the government in the past would even have contemplated doing, so it seems like they are trying to think outside the box, which makes me happy.”
At the same time, the government has committed to reducing the duty on food items mostly used in the restaurant and tourism industry, in particular chicken parts.
The duty on chicken imports is now 30 percent, and has remained high over the years as a means to encourage consumers to support Bahamian poultry producers.
Pinder said it is his understanding that the reduction, while necessary for now, may be temporary.
“They’re in a conundrum because the cost of food is going up like crazy, but at the same time, you want to get local producers to produce more. So, I know they were looking at lowering the tariff to help lower the cost of chicken right now, because we’re still rebuilding, we’re not at full operation. And I think with the electricity concession, they are trying to offset any negative impact that might have on our business,” he said.
He continued, “Well, I think if you want the industry to grow you’ll have to revisit some of that. There was some talk about it being temporary until we can get the industry up to par.”
Abaco Big Bird has been producing chicken products for 25 years, but sustained substantial losses from Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the island in September 2019.
Though the company has been back in production since 2020, it’s has not reached its pre-pandemic production levels.