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Prices of Imported Chicken to Increase

by 5m Editor
14 December 2011, at 8:38am

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - Poultry industry insiders are warning of a sharp increase in the price of chicken, possibly before Christmas, following Government’s application to Caricom’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) for an increase in the tariff on imported chicken.

The T&T Guardian understands that the tariff, which is already at 40 per cent, may go up to 80 per cent.

According to sources, this will make the cost of imported chicken prohibitive and will also impact on the price of the local poultry. At present chicken retails at pluck shops for approximately $5.25 a pound.

In an advisory to members last month, the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce revealed that the Government had applied to COTED for suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET) to increase the tariff on specified poultry products for two years. It said: "The action of the Government will be World Trade Organisation (WTO) compatible since the increase in tariff will be the bound rate."

"If the upward suspension of the CET on poultry items is approved by the council, there will be a negative impact for the distributors of these items and their customers." According to reports, the application is being actively pursued by Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz and the tariff increase could take place by this week, pending support from some Caricom members, namely Antigua/Barbuda, Grenada, St Kitt’s/Nevis, Dominica and St Vincent.

Imported chicken already has been moved from List A (agricultural products) in the T&T Custom Schedules to List C (revenue-based) to facilitate the increase. Among the arguments being advanced in support of the increase is that it will protect the local industry from dumping of dark poultry meat — legs, thighs and part of the back. These parts are reportedly shunned by consumers in the United States in favour of breasts and wings.

The local poultry producers claim imported frozen chicken leg quarters and other poultry products are competing unfairly against locally-produced chicken. However, strong objections have been raised by local importers of poultry who say the tariff is already high, affording protection to approximately 20,000 jobs in the local industry where there have been no lay-offs caused by imports. The local poultry industry produces about 48 million broilers and ten million dozen table eggs an annum.

Local producers say they employ the latest technology for farming and process at four grain terminals, five feed mills, five hatcheries, four primary processing plants and more than 3,000 poultry depots across the country. Contacted last night, Minister of Food Production, Vasant Bharath, said that some chicken parts has been imported into T&T without the correct tariff being paid. He said that a note was brought to Cabinet a few months ago by Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz, in which the case for higher tariffs on imported chicken was made.

Cabinet felt that the situation needed more information. If the information that has been gathered substantiates that imports were hurting local production, Cabinet would attempt to level the playing field, said Mr Bharath.