LOCAL livestock prices are set to increase by next week, says president of the Agricultural Society of TT (ASTT) Darryl Rampersad.
Speaking with Sunday Newsday on Thursday, Rampersad said international commodity prices continued to show an upward trend and coupled with the cost of livestock healthcare, farmers were unable to hold off any further.
He said farmers were anticipating another 15-25 per cent increase in feed prices soon.
“Of course, there would be an increase. In the early part of February last year, the increase was because of a price increase in wheat middling. Animal healthcare products have already increased between 75-100 per cent on products. This is a cost the farmers tried to absorb as well as maintain the meat prices.
“There is a sure indicated increase in international prices and members of the poultry industry have indicated that they will be increasing the processed items. In the next week, or so, we can see that happening,” Rampersad said.
In February and July last year, the sector was hit with increases in livestock feed from its major suppliers – National Flour Mills, Mastermix and Nutrimix – owing to high international grain prices, demand and supply trends and climate conditions.
Sunday Newsday tried to contact the three suppliers about further increases but only NFM responded.
Its CEO Ian Mitchell said via Whatsapp message that, “We continually monitor the cost inputs for our feed products. There is always the possibility that we will have to make an adjustment.”
Rampersad said while it would not be a permanent fix to the price pressure, a local feed mill or forage facility would be an asset, help livestock farmers, and in the end the consumer.
“We have been asking for a feed mill to produce local high protein forages that can be substituted into some of the feed ingredients. In the past, the Sugarcane Feed Centre used to work on research, such as this. We need to revisit these things. The Mon Jaloux facility which was earmarked as forage bank is abandoned,” he said. Last March, Sunday Newsday reported that illegal farmers had taken over almost a third of the 366-acre Mon Jaloux forage development centre in Cunupia.
Food security, Rampersad said, should be a priority for the government, but farmers continued to struggle for basic amenities to run their farms.
He pointed out that there were many dilapidated farm access roads, drainage, bridges, and other shortfalls infrastructure that were forcing farmers out of the industry.
Rampersad said, “The livestock sector is one that is limping right now because we have minimum assistance from the government. There are no support services. The livestock sector is one that is left behind because agriculture in TT is focused on vegetables, root crops and other plant produce.”
He said the association has been trying for some time to meet with the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat on the matter, but all their requests have been turned down.
Veterinary surgeon Dr Tariq Ackbar said the commercial cost for animal healthcare has increased due to several input factors over the past couple of years.
He told Sunday Newsday that apart from medication, a lack of government veterinarians has raised the cost of the care of animals, as farmers must now engage the services of private veterinarians, which were costly.
“Since covid19 started there was a gradual loss of the government vet services. The government vet services charge very little to the farmers. So having lost a lot of the reliability of the government service there is a drastic increase in the cost of paying for the vet service.
“There have been increases in medication and supplies. Overall increased prices in fuel, vehicle maintenance and other services, contributed to the service fees for the visits of vets.”
Ackbar said a lack of investment and funding by the ministry to the government-provided veterinary service were some of the reasons for a steady decline and failed service to livestock farmers.
“The Government has not been able to financially afford that service, and, because of that, they can’t hire enough vets to run the service adequately. The few vets that are available have to be stretched out and this depreciates the reliability of the service.
“It has been a problem for a while but lately it has gotten worse. It is supposed to be one vet per county. There have been cases where the animal health assistant is going out, on behalf of the vet, to do some of the work, and try to help the situation. That has caused some trouble in terms of the quality of service provided. So, now there is a cut back on the health assistants going out.
Minister in agriculture ministry Avinash Singh told Sunday Newsday it continued to monitor the global prices, which the ministry had no control over, but pointed out that there were many incentives for farmers to access, once registered.
Singh said, “We continue to monitor the costs associated with farming. It is a worldwide challenge and not something targeted at TT. The ministry continues to provide heavy incentives and subsidies such as the $100,000 grant that all livestock farmers are entitled to.
“The Mon Jaloux facility has been providing free forage to farmers for some time. There is always going to be talk that more could be done, and I agree but the facility continues to activity and contributing to the livestock producers.”
He added that in the matter of the government veterinarian service, there have been challenges that are being looked at by the permanent secretary.
“We had issues in terms of manpower in that division – Animal, Health and Production Division and the permanent secretary is aware of it, and I’m sure she is looking into it. I don’t have many facts and information about it and would have to find out more,” Singh said.