(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — President of the Egg Industry Association Roy Baker says the shutdown of hotels due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has wiped out a third of the egg market, which he said represents almost seven million eggs per month.
“We have a section of our industry that is actually in a glut due to the closure of the hotel industry [and the lack of an alternative market]. So we do have our challenges,” Baker told the Jamaica Observer in a telephone interview.
He said the overall market demand is not sufficient to consume the glut experienced by a third of its members who supplied the hotel sector.
“We were producing for an entire market so we are trying to help those farmers that have no market,” the egg industry association president said.
At the same time, Baker said that despite spending millions of dollars in the promotion of egg consumption locally, “we have been eating less eggs as a people”, compared to other countries.
He added: “It is a situation where we want to increase consumption by getting more of our people to eat more eggs [as] we are at the bottom of the ladder when we talk about consumption per capita,” Baker said.
“In developing countries the average person eats three-and-a-half eggs per person per week, and in the developed countries they eat up to seven eggs per week [but] in Jamaica the average consumption is one egg per person per week, said Baker.
“We have been doing a lot of promotions to increase local egg consumption; we have spent millions of dollars. What we need to do is take off GCT off eggs and make it more affordable to our people,” he said.
The removal of the General Consumption Tax (GCT) from the price of eggs, he added, would make the commodity more affordable for consumers.
“In the supermarkets a dozen eggs attract a price of between $400 and $500, including GCT. Exemption from GCT will increase consumption and it would help us pick up the slot that we lost from the hotel sector. That’s what we need to do,” he argued.
Baker, who described the Government’s fight to slow the spread of the COVID-19 as commendable, however, argued that the Administration needs to do more for small businesses such as egg farmers.
“We need more assistance from the Government to save this sector, where the cost of production is so high because most of the inputs are imported. Some 10 to 15 years ago we had to depend on imported eggs and we are now saving the Government $3 billion per year in import substitution, and we are employing some 3,000 people indirectly. We are an important part of the food industry and the Government should do whatever it can to save the egg industry,” said Baker.
“We also believe Government has not been paying due regard to the agriculture sector; in particular the smaller players. Agriculture is not like commercial and other small businesses. You can’t close your doors and just walk away from crops and livestock, you have to be there to attend to them and you can’t just walk away because the economy is bad, because your operating cost is very high, and therefore you have to just shut down,” the Egg Industry Association head said.