Several residents and business owners are being inconvenienced as there is an apparent shortage of chicken at the stores and retail outlets. The coolers at Caribbean Chicken are next to bare while the shutters at Quality Poultry Products are closed today. Love News has been looking into this development and found that even those at the Poultry Association are also in awe at what they have coined as a phenomenon. According to the Association’s Manager, Armando Cowo, chicken production was lowered in recent months as a result of Covid-19. Fast forward today, however, and the production has been increased to almost 100% but still the supply is not meeting the demand for chicken around the country. Cowo broke down the figures for production since March when they began to cut back.
Armando Cowo, Poultry Association Manager: “2020 March we did one million birds were placed in the barns to grow to feed the Belizean population; that is comparative to 2019 where we did one million birds as well. In April when the bottom of the market fell out due to the lock down we placed six hundred and eighty six thousand nine hundred thirteen birds in the barns as compared to 2019 the same period for April which we did 1.124 million birds in the barns so you can see it’s basically like almost 50% cut. In May we did even a little bit less because we kinda miscalculated on the cuttings we did 612,400 birds went into the barns as compared to last year May which again we did 1.228 – one and a quarter million birds for the same period last year. In June our figures went up because we saw the opening we knew that everything was going to be unlocked and we didn’t know at what level we were going to be operating however we did a throughput and I gave you these figures the last time of 982,549 birds were placed in the barns as compared to 2019 where we did one million seventy two thousand birds so you can see there was a shortfall. But again in 2019 we had the tourism industry vibrant in 2020 there are local tourists but we don’t have the external tourism market booming. Now for July we placed one million one hundred and one thousand birds in the barns as compared to last year where we did one million one hundred and sixty eight thousand birds and we did this based on what we were thinking the market would have responded to in the sense that okay since the tourists are not in Belize we can’t really go back to a hundred percent production level. So we’re currently at more or less 93% production level which is still high enough considering that there are no tourists in Belize and the chicken is just not there on the shelves. So the question is do we have shortage ? Yes. Do we have a shortage ? No and that might sound contradictory and confusing but the reality is no because we had placed 1.1 million birds in the barns that are being harvested currently for the month of August, yes because currently the shelves are empty and the freezers are empty and ourselves at the industry we’re trying to understand this phenomenon. We think it’s a bubble in the sense that okay people are not travelling, no one is going across the border to Chetumal, no one is going across the border to Melchor so all that money is staying at home and it seems that the people have decided to invest that money in the consumption of chicken.”
Cowo assured residents that production for chicken will be increased to 100% in order to meet the high demand. However, they will not hesitate to reduce it again if that demand starts to decrease. According to Cowo, they are doing what they can to reduce losses as best as possible.
Armando Cowo, Poultry Association Manager: “As soon as that demand slackens we will then slacken production but hopefully we get some warning signs from the market before we go and incur more losses. As you all know in the first round we incurred some heavy losses. We incurred well north of $10 million in losses for the industry in that short period of time because the losses were not only in direct chicken sales that people were not buying or the fact that we were giving it away or doing promos it was also the fact that you have to remember behind the scenes what is happening. We have the grandfather flocks that are continuing to lay eggs that will go to the hatchery so we had to cut back on the hatching process on the number of eggs going to the hatchery and we also had to cut back on the grandfather flock so there were losses that people are not seeing. One of the first signs would be the freezers in the shops not emptying at the rate we’re seeing them getting empty now and yes I do agree with you a decision now will take weeks down the road but to cut we can basically cut immediately because all we have to do is cut at the hatchery we just don’t send the eggs to be hatched so we can cut that immediately but the rest of the stock that is already in the barns will then be harvested it’s just the numbers going through the hatchery will be reduced and therefore yes that effect we will not see it until further down the road.”
Cowo noted that one of the communities that produces chicken, namely Shipyard, is currently under a lockdown. He stated that the Association is still trying to get their produce in the market, however, it won’t be at the normal rate since movement in the community is restricted.