Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Blunders for Profit
(Aired 22 October 2003)

   Last December 2002 amidst much fanfare our Minister of Trade, Tourism and Commerce announced that he was raising the tariff on imported chicken from the US by 135 percent, at the same time Nadir told us that Didco, a company which started the importation of chicken to this country nearly 20 years ago and single-handedly contributed significantly to the demise of the local poultry industry, was now going to re-establish the local poultry industry and had been given tax free concessions to purchase all of the equipment they needed to supply the nation with chicken at an affordable price. Our President told us that he had, by decree, allowed this 135 percent increase in tariff on chicken but that the local price will have to stay within a reasonable limit or he will reduce the tariff of the imported US chicken to allow the Guyanese people affordable access to this form of protein.

    The Americans immediately objected since according to trade agreements we had with the US, tariffs on imported American produce could not be higher than 100%, so an embarrassed Nadir, a Minister of Trade who incredibly did not know of these important trade arrangements with the US government embarrassed this nation with his ignorance and incompetence, in his rush to carry out whatever was his agenda, and was forced to lower the duties on imported chicken to 100 percent, but this still guaranteed that the US chicken would be priced out of the Guyana marketplace for good, in effect therefore Nadir banned the importation of chicken from the US, leaving this nation at the mercy of Didco. We were even told by the President himself that this can open the way for Guyana to become not only self reliant in the production of chicken but to become a major supplier of chicken to the wider Caribbean, but in view of this country's dependence on the importation of the raw materials for this industry, Mr. Jagdeo's dream of our exporting chicken to the region is just another dream.

    I have looked at this matter from every conceivable angle and I am convinced that this had nothing to do with building a local poultry industry in this country; it had to do with giving one company Didco, a virtual monopoly of the chicken market in Guyana.     

    Shortly after the banning of the US chicken tin Guyana there then ensured a price war in which Didco lowered the cost of their chicken from $135 per pound to $100 per pound, which had the effect of putting quite a few of the smaller producers out of business, some of whom were even operating their own hatcheries, only big producers like Shivraj, Toucan and Bounty Farms survived. But it was not sustainable and today the entire situation is a complete mess with chicken prices hovering near $200 a Lb.

   As for Didco telling us that someone is smuggling chicken into Guyana that is what is driving up the local price of chicken is pure hogwash, since during the short period of 5th December 2002 to today, chicken prices have risen by some 44%.  This is not sardines and polar beer ladies and gentlemen, it is a highly perishable product which has to be refrigerated at all times and kept that way until sold, so if smugglers are involved on a large enough scale to upset a huge operation such as Didco, these must be some very sophisticated smugglers out there indeed, with refrigerated ships and vehicles, have any of you seen any? Or have only the people at Didco seen these phantom refrigerated vessels and vehicles?

   The importation of chicken from the US was yielding over one Billion dollars in revenue to this nation, nevertheless chicken was still affordable to the common man, not importing from the US meant that this one billon dollars would not be paid in duties and concessions annually to the nation,

   But in the end it is costing more in actual foreign exchange to produce a pound of chicken in Guyana now, than it would cost to import a pound of chicken from the US. Most of the raw materials including eggs, Vaccines, Vitamins, feed concentrate etc all have to be imported and according to my information there are no duties paid to the treasury on these importations. So we are using more foreign exchange to produce this chicken per lb., than it would cost to import a Lb. of chicken from the US, but nothing is going into our treasury for the next 5 years, that's 5 billion dollars we will lose so that Didco can blunder through their processing problems at our expense.

    I say blunder since apparently due to unforeseen and inexplicable technical glitches, I am reliably informed that the Didco hatchery is experiencing unacceptably high mortality rates and substantial amounts of the eggs do not hatch. This forces the cost of the chicken price to rise.

   In addition not only do the Chicken eggs not hatch properly, apparently the feed being used is not nutritious enough to produce chickens which weigh more than 3 lbs. This forces the cost of chicken to rise further.

    All of these concessions made to Didco by Mansoor Nadir is now having a negative impact on the pockets of the poor people in this country, I will not venture a guess whose pockets benefited from it, but our poor Guyanese brothers and sisters now have to pay 44% more for chicken which has risen from $135 per Lb to $195 per lb. notwithstanding that they were promised by their President himself, that this will not be allowed to happen and that Didco and the others must produce at $1.35G dollars per pound, ladies and gentlemen I don't care how much investment Didco has made, they have deprived the nation of more than one billion dollars in revenue per annum for 5 years and have received and continue to receive huge duty free and other concessions so they must be forced to keep their promise and produce at $135 per pound or get out, they had no problem chasing out the small farmers earlier this year in the price wars. The people in this nation especially the poor ones already have to carry an incompetent, inefficient and corrupt government on their backs with their taxes, so why should they carry Didco as well? And lose over one billion in revenue in the process, whilst Mr Didco is laughing all the way to the Bank.

    Ladies and gentlemen I promised to tell you when the situation began to approach crisis levels and that time is now. According to a Stabroek News report the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Trade and Commerce Willet Hamilton was quoted as saying that he "did not know whether local production is able to provide an adequate amount to the local market and that the Industry will take some time to come online with adequate production" this is a totally different tune than the one that Nadir and President Jagdeo were singing in December 2002.

   My wife informs me that we have never bought the imported Didco chicken, she always bought the higher priced Bounty Farms chicken, she says it was better, it was the poor people in this country that were buying the imported US chicken quarters and it is they that will suffer now; at Linden for example I understand that they cannot buy chicken at all since the price is too high.

    That's typical of this corrupt, weak Guyana government in action ladies and gentlemen what we have here is another ESBI situation, Didco makes promises, they give undertakings, they identify deadlines, in return they get huge concessions from the government, they deprive the country of billons of dollars in revenue, making these empty promises; then a few months later they fail to fulfil those promises and instead of halting the process and calling in the chips, and enforcing the President's personal  guarantee made in December 2002 that the nation will not have to buy chicken for more than $135 per pound, Nadir allows Didco to break all of the undertakings it gave with impunity, I suppose that once you keep Freedom House happy you are OK, and to hell with the rest of the people in this nation, the PPP know that we will suffer through this further insult, in silence.