By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
An Abaco poultry producer yesterday said "uncertainty" surrounding the World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession has forced it to explore diversification, adding: "You don't know what field you're playing on."
Underscoring fears among local producers and manufacturers about the potential impact full WTO membership may have on their industries, Lance Pinder, Abaco Big Bird Farm's operations manager, told Tribune Business: "We have a big concern about WTO, obviously. We don't know how that will impact sales, but it's safe to assume there will be an impact.
"Our chicken is a premium product, and people may go for the cheapest thing. Right now there is so much uncertainty. We've been battling with imported chicken for a long time, and it's going to be even harder going forward. Everyone is concerned about it and what the government is going to negotiate to help us out going forward.
"You don't know what field you're playing on. It's really hard to invest any money right now or do any expansion with uncertainty. Uncertainty is bad for business."
As reported previously by Tribune Business, many Bahamian businesses fear they are unable to advise the Government on where to set the WTO "red lines" because they lack the necessary industry-specific analyses to determine the impact of membership and what the economy will look like post-accession.
Mr Pinder told Tribune Business: "We're seriously trying to diversify right now. We're looking to do a lot of different things to help mitigate any fall-out. Obviously we have our avocados and limes apart from chicken. We're looking to do more processing, some pre-cooked options and that sort of thing."
He added that the company has been "hanging in there", aided by a strong tourist season on Abaco. "The locals here support us, and so we know when the resorts are doing well because they buy a lot of our chicken," Mr Pinder said.
"Sales on Abaco have been good. Nassau has been bit sluggish. We're only running at about 70 per cent capacity right now. A lot of costs have gone up. Fuel prices have gone up. There has been a big spike in corn and soy bean prices right now. The cost on paper products for packaging have also gone up in the last six months."