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Minister Touts Removal of Chicken Import Permit

by 5m Editor
21 June 2010, at 5:55a.m.

BAHAMAS - Despite recent concerns raised over the government's decision to eliminate the requirement to have a permit to import chicken, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Larry Cartwright maintained that it was the right move for the poultry industry.

For weeks, owners of the Abaco Big Bird Poultry Farm have repeatedly voiced their worries over the decision that was announced in Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's 2010/2011 Budget communication. The owners of one of the nation's last thriving chicken farms vow they will do all they can to keep the family-run business up and running.

The company, which has been operating since 1995, sells 60 per cent of their chicken to the Abaco market. They also export poultry to New Providence and Grand Bahama, reports The Nassau Guardian Online.

At the moment Abaco Big Bird is considered one of the largest producing farms in The Bahamas, producing 1.5 million pounds of chicken each year.

The Bahamian chicken farmers say they already have a minimal share of the market - about one per cent - and the government's move could reduce that even further.

"We're watching the situation very closely and trying to let the Bahamian people know that we are out there," said Lance Pinder, a partner in the farm. "We support local businesses and it keeps money in the country. So it's better for everybody when there's a big trickle-down effect from a farm like this."

"And also we're hoping with this farm, even with the permits being eliminated, if we can make it we can show that there's been a lot of failures in the past in the Bahamian poultry industry. So if we can make it as a successful farm it will prove that we can grow good quality chicken here in The Bahamas. So we would be looking into expanding."

In response to the concerns, Minister Cartwright said the move was long overdue as poultry was the only meat that required an import permit.

Still, with many local merchants complaining about the hassle to obtain a permit the government thought it best to end the practice. Cartwright added that the local poultry farms can't meet the nation's high demand for chicken.

He also said that judging by the high quality of organic chicken produced by Abaco Big Bird, the business should have no problem selling its goods even with the permit system being eliminated.

Nearly 150 million pounds of chicken are consumed in The Bahamas each year and Carol Jean Lowe, a partner in the farm, said the business was hoping to expand to meet more of the demand.

"Now we're processing six thousand [chickens] per day so we've really increased our production," she said. "We're producing 17 thousand chickens in each of our five (chicken) houses.

"We're hoping that through everything that we can put in more houses and keep this going. We're going to try and do all we can to get out there and market our chicken."

The farm employs 28 people and 52 dependents whose salaries exceed $500,000 a year according the farm's owners. Its operations also include partnerships with 72 other businesses in Abaco. Over the past 15 years they said their total investments and expenditures on the Abaco economy have reached $20 million.