By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A BAHAMIAN poultry producer yesterday revealed it is “pushing” for chicken imports to be regulated by quotas rather than the current tariff system as The Bahamas’ march to WTO accession continues.
Lance Pinder, operations manager at Abaco Big Bird, told Tribune Business: “Just negotiating a duty rate for poultry would only be one part of the issue. We’re pushing to try and get a quota system in place which will replace the current import regime. You have to get every country that wants to send chicken into The Bahamas, negotiate with them all and come to an agreement.
“There are different ways it can be administered, but what happens is you agree on how much can come in. What then would happen is ‘x’ amount will come in at a low duty rate and, once that threshold is met, the duty rate jumps up much higher and discourages importation after a certain amount of pounds has entered the country.
“That’s what we’re pushing for. We’ve brought that up in WTO talks, and that’s where we think things are headed.That’s pretty common in poultry systems around the world.”
Quotas are another means of protecting local industries from foreign competition by restricting the volume of imports admitted into a country. Once import volumes for a particular product reach a pre-determine amount, threshold or benchmark, no more are permitted to cross the border.
Zhivargo Laing, The Bahamas’ chief negotiator in the bid for full World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership, previously revealed that poultry was one area where foreign countries were interested in seeing tariff reductions beyond what this nation has offered to-date.
“Some countries have asked us to lower duties further in areas in which they have an export interest; poultry is one of those areas,” Mr Laing said.
Mr Pinder yesterday said Bahamian producers will ultimately have to “wait and see” how WTO negotiations play out. “I’ve been in meetings with government about different aspects of it. There’s still no solid information as to how it’s going to be or affect us,” he added.
“I know that they sent a counter-offer at the end of January or early part of February as far as the poultry goes. It will depend on, I guess, what we end up negotiating. It’s still up to government to implement the policy. You can negotiate your upper limit but the Government still has to set the policies within those boundaries to be good for the industry. It’s still up to government to set the domestic policy.”