A record stock of three million Barbadian eggs are available this yuletide season, despite heavy losses owing to summer heat, the Barbados Egg and Poultry Producers Association (BEPPA) has reported.
More than half of the eggs have come from the largest producers with small farmers providing the rest, BEPPA president Stephen Layne said.
The island’s poultry stock is being restored after BEPPA recorded a 25 per cent mortality rate across the board, with the highest rate during the summer months as small farmers struggled to keep the birds cool while recovering from a slump in production triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“We have to continue to educate members on how to use technology to keep down the heat,” Layne said. “Most of the farmers use fans, but that is not always enough, so we have to educate the poultry producers on the best methods possible.”
Before the pandemic, annual poultry production had risen to an average 10 million birds a year, up from seven million in the previous decade, Layne revealed at a recent strategic meeting of commodity groups hosted by the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC).
“We could have gotten numbers up to 11 million, but COVID affected production and the loss earlier this year put a dent in the numbers.”Stephen Layne
While the losses forced some small farmers to close shop, the majority of farmers have been able to maintain their operations, he said, but there is room for improvement. “We can do a whole lot better with eggs, by offering consumers liquefied or powdered eggs. This is added value. We can also add value with poultry by offering strips, cuts, nuggets and semi-prepared products which could be seasoned or breaded for ease of use,” he added.
Layne said this is a natural progression for the association which has moved to ensure a higher quality product by better breeding selection, cleaner housing, a constant supply of food and water and adequate lighting. BEPPA farmers do not feed their birds antibiotics as stipulated by the universally recognised Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations, he said.
But Barbadian poultry producers continue to be hampered by a lack of investment and subsidies in addition to the fallout from climate change. To address these issues BEPPA is preparing a strategy to lobby government for subventions and to attract financing, the head of the 58 year-old farmers group said.
About 6,000 people are directly or indirectly employed in poultry production, though the majority are farmers. Many of these workers offer ancillary services, including processing plants, transport, accounting, technology and veterinary resources.