By Elesha George
The government has entertained a plan to establish an abattoir for local chicken processing.
According to Thursday’s Cabinet notes, the Ministry of Agriculture has already determined that the abattoir will help meet domestic demand for meat from broilers.
The government says EC$16 million dollars’ worth of poultry is imported into the country each year.
“Studies have shown from marketing data that Antiguans and Barbudans consume at least 150,000 chickens per month,” Minister Dean Jonas told yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.
That is the production number that Cabinet believes will achieve self-sufficiency for the country.
The Cabinet said it met with a number of experts on Wednesday, including a consultant from London who has been in Antigua for two weeks and has already made several proposals for increasing the production of meats here.
” I think Dr Patrick Lay was part of that team who is heading up a plan to deploy a poultry production facility in Antigua and Barbuda,” said Jonas.
Small farmers are being advised to “plan for expansion”. The government believes the abattoir, which should be capable of butchering a minimum of 14,000 chickens daily, could take just 10 months to actualise.
“What they’re intending to do is to purchase the chickens from many, many local farmers and this processing facility will purchase the chickens, once they meet the standards, to enable the abattoir to supply the local market with chickens,” he explained.
“This we believe will allow us to hold the prices steady,” said Jonas. “Maybe there might be a very slight increase in the prices but what we’re going to get is a locally grown product that is far healthier and better for the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
“What we discovered some time ago is that the chickens we import from overseas, we cannot guarantee the quality and so this will enable the government to provide guarantees on the quality of meat consumption in Antigua and Barbuda,” he added.
Poultry farmers are expected to receive concessions, though it is not yet certain in what form, to participate in this industry move.
Minister Jonas suggested that the government may reduce production costs – like the cost of feed – to help farmers meet the demands.