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Poultry producers want protection
More than 27,000 jobs will be lost if imported chicken continues to flood the local market. This was the warning yesterday from president of the T&T Poultry Association Robert Phillip who said the local industry will be decimated if it is not protected from a ramped up campaign by the USA Poultry and Egg Council to send millions of tons of chicken, turkey and duck, and billions of eggs into the Caricom market.
Based on estimates from the association, T&T produces 800,000 birds a week for domestic consumption and imports an estimated 200,000 birds.
Phillip is appealing to Government to implement the Poultry and Poultry Products Caricom Standard, passed in 2012, to prevent substandard meat from entering the local market. He is also calling for introduction of proper importation standards since there are too many discrepancies in records of exports from the United States and T&T customs.
According to Phillip, 200 metric tonnes of chicken offal comes into T&T based on US export data but T&T’s Customs records show no evidence of it.
“Chicken offal is a waste product. This could be a health risk to our people. We cannot say what it is whether it is gizzard, livers or feathers and entrails. We are not sure what it is and it is being imported. US records show it is exported to Trinidad and Tobago but Customs says nothing like that has entered the market, yet US data shows that it left for Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
“US chicken and poultry products are already on the local market and we are concerned because currently there is no requirement to disclose when the chicken was processed. The standard that we should be operating here is the Caricom standard which says that the chicken should be no older than 180 days from slaughter. That is an international standard.”
Phillip said 80 per cent of local chicken is sold within three to five days and balance is sold within two months.
“We are competing at a disadvantage because there are reports that chicken two years old is entering the Caricom market for sale. This food fraud is something we raised before and it must be stopped,” he said.
A representative from the T&T Pluckshop Association said the industry employs between 10,000 and 12,000 people.
“If foreign chicken is brought into Trinidad and Tobago, thousands of people will go on the breadline. Apart from being careful with foreign meat, we must ensure that we support our local industry,” an official of the association said.
On Friday, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat expressed concern that poultry imports are threatening thousands of local jobs.
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