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“Striking a balance:” Minister of Agriculture addresses the importation of dairy products

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Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2021. 1:37 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise, Jose Abelardo Mai, has clarified that his Ministry does not intend, or need, to ban imported milk and dairy products such as cheddar and mozzarella cheese.

But their importation, he added, will be carefully managed to balance competition with local products, particularly Western Dairies of Spanish Lookout.

The unrestricted importation of these goods, from countries that heavily subsidize producers, and which do not pay general sales tax (GST) and import duty, is not fair, Mai says.

Worse, to then tax the local processors for GST and import duties on bottling, packaging and processing equipment hurts even worse and widens the competition and will be addressed. While at this point the local industry cannot supply the country’s demand, there is a chance that changes will come with investment in UHT and tetra pack technology which the Government will support.

Mai concludes, “My family loves Lala Milk. I love Lala Milk but I care for our farmers and four our ailing economy…. so I have a moral and patriotic obligation. I agree we must improve the quality and shelf life of our local product…. and when that happens I will purchase more of our local milk…. and less of imported milk. The point here is to strike a balance; a balance that will bring fair competition!! In so doing, keep our scarce dollars at home and keep our people employed especially in these extremely difficult times.”

The food bill for 2020 was up to two hundred and fifteen million dollars, according to statistics. Of that amount, twenty-one point eight million dollars is spent on dairy products; only five million was for Western Dairies, the only local producer of milk and cheeses – the rest was imported from Mexico and Holland. And before the general elections, Minister Mai says that there was a massive importation of dairy products.  He says that while a permit is still being issued to the importer, it’s about striking a balance: “We are still analyzing all information, the list of importers, the list of products, how much was brought in. So, we are trying to redirect the policy so to speak because it cannot be the norm, it cannot be continuous because we are killing our industries and our heart working producers; we are not helping them.”

 

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