The US$2.3 million state-of-the-art Sweet River Abattoir project in Westmoreland could be dead before it gets off the ground as a result of the 16.5% general consumption tax (GCT) added to animal feed and pork, say the island's pig farmers, according to The Gleaner.
Ground was broken six months ago on the massive venture, which is set for completion in November, but the investors, Sweet River, some 500 farmers, and Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited (CPJ), say the development – the largest combined investment in the history of the pork industry – faces imminent suspension.
The announced GCT would see an increase of 12% to the current price of pork from the farmers, and consumers would pay an alarming 25% more, Sweet River's managing director, Valdence Gifford, stated. He cautioned that with chicken being exempted, pork would be at a severe disadvantage.
On average, consumers are currently paying between J$180 and $200 per pound for pork.
Mr Gifford's concerns have been echoed by treasurer of the Jamaica Pig Farmers' Association (JPFA), Henry Graham, who revealed that a number of the island's farmers have invested some J$300 million into improving their infrastructure to supply the new abattoir and the new processing facilities at CPJ in Montego Freeport, and the new measures would have dire effects on their investments.
It would also affect their ability to compete with the rest of their Caricom partners. If this takes effect, it would result in the industry dying, Graham argued, noting that the farmers had not taken into account the magnitude of the increase in doing business. The idea behind the abattoir was to ensure the industry became self-sustainable, having the ability to produce meat products that are traditionally imported, and that have been reared, handled properly, and processed, saving the country millions of dollars.
Currently, the country imports an average of three million kilograms of pork annually.
They could reduce that by one-third. However, JPFA feels that the Government did not put enough thought into the taxation implications. They had been encouraged by the government to increase local input in order to reduce importation, and over the last three years, this had been progressively done, culminating with this investment, said the JPFA treasurer.
CPJ's co-managing chairman, Tom Tyler, is convinced the new tax will kill any potential the industry might have to export.
Source: The Gleaner