Pig producers co-op denies piglet fraud

The Guyana Swine Producers Cooperative Society Limited has denied recent allegations that it was involved in “piglet fraud,” as was claimed by a recent letter writer.

In an interview with Stabroek News recently, Chairman of the Co-op Eric Anderson and Secretary Owen McGarrell refuted the validity of the claims made in a letter that was published in the October 12 edition of the newspaper.

In the letter, titled “Piglet Fraud,” it was stated that the letter writers, who have been members of the Co-op for over two years, paid $5,000 to receive piglets and feed under a government-funded project, but were still to receive any to date. The letter claimed, however, that members of the society “took fifteen piglets for themselves,” which they kept at the society’s farm.

The letter also stated that 80 piglets had arrived in Guyana in June, 2016, and were to be distributed among the Co-op’s poultry members.

It was related to Stabroek News by Anderson and McGarrell that a total of 103 piglets arrived in Guyana in 2016. There were 93 Topigs 40 and 10 Suriname Pig Farm boars. The piglets were reportedly distributed among 35 members, none of whom paid for receipt of the stock.

When Anderson visited this newspaper, he proceeded first to clarify the conditions of membership for the Co-op, which was registered in March, 2016.

He showed a copy of the constitution, which outlines the criteria for becoming a member of the society, including being a pig farmer. Once the criteria are met, the document states, persons are required to pay a $5,000 registration fee and a $500 monthly subscription fee subsequently.

“So when they talk to the $5,000 for two pigs, that is what they talking about. And I doubt whether it is a member of the society that wrote this letter. Because they are fully aware of this criteria,” Anderson stated.

Anderson also stated that the society does not have a farm, contrary to what was suggested in the letter.

Around 35 members reportedly received piglets under the project after a special committee was appointed to determine whether members had farm conditions suitable to rear the high breed stock.

It was explained that the original list contained 32 names, but this was later changed after the committee made visits to determine the farmers’ capacities to rear the pigs. As a result, about 35 farmers were reportedly in receipt of piglets.

“You had a technical committee put together for that and that technical committee was headed by Mr Michael Welch from GLDA [Guyana Livestock Development Authority] and it includes Arnold Mendonca from IICA [the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture], Mr Hinds, a member of the society, Mr Jason Fraser, the project officer from the Ministry of Communities and a project officer for the project that was appointed, Ms Mercedes Forde. The society had nothing to do directly with it. There was a technical committee to address that,” McGarrell stated.

“Those were the persons responsible for ensuring that the conditions were met before members could receive any of the pigs,” he added.

“He further mentioned he see 15 pigs, he or she, which member received 15 pigs and from where?” Anderson questioned.

McGarrell related that the Co-op was supposed to have lands available to it and each farmer would be given a sow to return one piglet to the society and the society would rear it for its farm.

“But we were not successful with getting our piece of land and so on, so what we decided to do was to ensure that other farmers benefited by giving them at least two piglets,” McGarrell stated.

Other farmers eventually joined the now 40-member Co-op, and it was said that it was expected that those farmers would “put their house in order” over time, as the pigs can only be bred in certain conditions in order to meet the desired result or coefficient. It was noted that some members are still to receive piglets for this very reason.

“In the letter, they spoke to feed; we never promised at this stage, feed. Feed was given to the first set because that’s what the project document said. The $20 million for the 32 pigs was the pig, some members get pen and they get feed. The money didn’t do for everybody…we were hoping that this feed would have taken us to furrowing, these pigs were two and a half months old and it was expected that the amount of feed that we projected would have been enough to take them to furrowing—dropping these young ones. That never happened…because we did apply to GRA for duty-free but we had to pay VAT and that VAT came out of…what we budgeted in the project for feed,” Anderson related.

Regardless of this shortcoming, the Chairman dubbed the project a success.

“This is a successful venture. We have been able to meet the technical coefficients, meaning that when the project was conceptualised and forwarded to the Ministry of Commu-nities in October of 2015, we said clearly it’s a challenge for us to rear pigs and earn an income, make a profit…,” Anderson explained.

“The Co-op Society was formed so that the government can listen to us to address our problems. We weren’t making profit because our breeding stock was poor. We weren’t making profit because we had challenges with feed. We weren’t making profit because we had marketing challenges. We recognise that the market in Guyana is very small and for us to sustain our business, we had to start thinking about the regional market. And for us to access the regional market, we had to be competitive. We would be competing with North America, Europe, China, for which pork is being imported in the Caribbean, millions of pounds. And we can’t do so if we are not competitive. To make ourselves competitive, our productivity had to be at a level. You can’t be producing on an average eight piglets per litter when the technical coefficient speaks to 16 and 18 piglets per litter. We’re meeting that now,” he stated further.

“We’re meeting in terms of the birth weight. In terms of the birth weight, we are right there with international standards. In terms of weaning, we are right there. Those farmers who have taken this thing seriously. We are right there,” Anderson continued.

One setback, however, has been the establishment of an abattoir. It was noted that in order to access international markets, the production parameters must be in keeping with international standards, meeting Agriculture Sector Development Unit standards at the minimum.

“Hopefully, with us agitating, sometime early in the New Year, the building of that abattoir will commence…,” Anderson said.

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