Prime Minister Andrew Holness has indicated that the Jamaican government will re-evaluate how it distributes import licenses for chicken neck and back, amid a report from the Integrity Commission of irregularities.
Holness, speaking on Thursday (December 10) at the virtual launch of the Southern Plains Agricultural Development (SPAD) Project, explained that the strategies to be undertaken by his administration should improve the system as they aim to increase output.
“The distribution of import license for chicken parts is not an incentive-compatible distribution. The whole purpose behind the issuing of the license is that when there is a shortage in the local production then you import, somehow there has been a disconnection,” said Prime Minister Holness.
The assurances were a contradiction of approvals made over seven years, between 2006 and 2013, which oversaw the importation of some 3,705 containers’ load of chicken back and 1,010 containers of chicken neck.
The report, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, suggests the leading players in the chicken parts import chain are not chicken producers but food retailers.
To address its hindsight, PM Holness asserted that the Government must examine strategies to incentivise the granting of import licenses.
“The people who are importing should also be the people who are producing, and, in that way, it would be incentive-compatible because if you are producing here then you are not so likely and you wouldn’t have the incentive to always want to be importing,” Holness explained.
“So, we should make sure that we have our local people tied into the production value chain here so that there is a vested interest in keeping our output high,” he added.
As Jamaica imports around US$25 million worth of chicken back and chicken neck each year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries came under fire for the opaque and unfair distribution of import permits for low-cost products.
The ministry was chastised by the commission for seemingly granting preferential treatment to applicants on the basis of prior importation history.
What’s more, the integrity of the permit award process was compromised and hindered competition, the commission continued.
According to the Integrity Commission, of the 116 importers of chicken back and neck, during the period 2006-2013, Spanish Grain Store, Transtrading Limited, Master Mac Limited, Triple M Ltd, Chris Ryon, Bran Lue Import Limited, Lillan Limited imported 46 per cent of all the chicken neck and chicken back.
The Integrity Commission found that the agriculture ministry undertakes no formal due diligence practises to determine the legitimacy and authenticity of the information submitted by applicants.
Among its recommendations, the Karl Harrison-led watchdog urged the Government to develop a formal policy ensuring transparency and accountability in the receipt and processing of applications.