Swine Co-op wants government to help revive pork industry

A newly-formed agricultural cooperative working with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture through the Guyana Livestock Development Association (GLDA) is seeking to mobilise pig farmers from across the country in an effort to raise pig-rearing standards, increase production and improve market access for local pork and pork products.

Chairman of the Guyana Swine Producers Coopera-tive Ltd Eric Anderson has told Stabroek Business that the entity, registered just over a month ago, will first seek to organise those pig farmers who have a collective interest in bringing a sense of order to the industry. Anderson said that while the founder members of the cooperative had been brought together by the belief that there was a future for the pork and pork products industry in Guyana, there was also an awareness that standards of pig-rearing and pork production needed to be raised. “I don’t mind telling you that overall I am personally not that impress-ed with the quality of the product that we produce,” Anderson told Stabroek Business.

Eric Anderson
Eric Anderson

Asserting that the pork and pork products industry needed to create “a new mindset in terms of the way we approach the business,” Anderson said that over the years the industry had been stifled by the modest size of the local market, a circumstance which he said had resulted from the importation of pork into the country.

“There is also the issue of the hog cycle. What we have is a situation in which favourable price levels for pork attract rearers to the industry after which a glut on the market results in a drop in prices and a large retreat from the industry.  What that means is that supplies are not constant,” Anderson said.

Meanwhile Anderson said that while the Cooperative would be seeking to engage government on the issue of supporting the growth of the pig-rearing industry by restricting pork imports, the members understood that in order to make an effective case for a bigger share of the local market, local pig farmers needed to raise their standards.

And according to Anderson, raising standards in the pig-rearing industry means, among other things, the creation of a reliable abattoir and training of farmers in aspects of pig-rearing like feed quality and health issues. “Because buyers visit pens to monitor the manner in which pigs are reared, pig rearers are under much greater pressure to raise their standards,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he believed that the majority of the country’s pig farmers “probably need financial assistance. The banks are not interested because rearing pigs can sometimes be a challenging business.” He explained that the process of fattening and weaning pigs often meant that the immediate repayment of loans was difficult. In that context he advocated that full repayment of loans by pig-rearers be held off until after the period of marketing. “That is the system that applies in Jamaica and it works,” Anderson said.

According to Anderson, the local pig industry would welcome a higher level of input from government. “There used to be a much bigger government input in the 1970s when the Guyana Marketing Corporation was much more involved. Government was assisting with the procurement of feed and generating markets. At that time there were also some initiatives in the manufacture of by-products like bacon. The Ministry of Agriculture played an important role in getting the cooperative off the ground and we are hoping that we can engage government so that we can perhaps see a level of involvement in the industry than was there in the past.”

Anderson said that the complexities of the local feed market were among the bigger challenges confronting the industry. “Cost and availability are major problems. Apart from everything there is a great deal of price manipulation arising out of the problems associated with the availability of raw materials. These days much more of our rice is exported as paddy. Apart from that, the producers of wheat milling also prefer to export. Apparently they get a better price.

As far as the wheat milling is concerned we want to ask NAMILCO to consider the local market first. What the situation has meant is that farmers have to be innovative in terms of finding other types of feed,” Anderson said.

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