Chicken gone up 10 cents/lb

Chicken has superseded fish, beef, and even pigtails as Belizeans’ primary source of meat protein. So when Quality Poultry Ltd, one the largest producers of chicken in the country, announced its product had gone up by 10 cents per pound, from $2.38 to $2.48/on Tuesday August 21, the man on the street immediately felt the bite in his pocket.

The price increase was across the board, as the Belize Poultry Producers’ Association decided on the price hike.

Henry Dueck, who sits on the Board of Directors of Quality Poultry, explained they try to keep the price of chicken as low as possible, because they know how much Belizeans like chicken, but external market forces have forced their hand.

The price of imported soy bean meal, which is added to  chicken feed, has gone up $10.00 per 100lb bag.

Belize produces soy beans, but local farmers simply cannot achieve the economies of scale of large, mechanized farms in the United States or Brazil, so the imported product has always been cheaper than locally grown soy bean.

Whether it’s a result of global warming or not, the United States has experienced a severe drought this year, with disastrous effects on several crops, including soy bean, corn and wheat, and U.S. consumers are already bracing for an increase in food prices.

According to CEO Jose Alpuche of the Ministry of Agriculture, Belize is entirely self-sufficient in corn production. In fact, Belize normally produces a surplus, which is exported, so Belizean chicken farmers cannot claim the price of imported corn has gone up. But  neither corn, poultry nor soy bean is price controlled. The price of these commodities on the Belize market is determined entirely by market forces.

In the case of local corn, there has traditionally been an informal export trade into Guatemala. Prices in Guatemala tend to follow the international prices offered at the New York Board of Trade or the Chicago Board of Trade, so when the price of corn in Guatemala is 34 cents per pound, the Belizean farmer will understandably ask local buyers to match that price; or else it would profit him more to sell his corn ac in Guatemala.

What has happened to corn prices is the same thing that has happened to conch and bony fish, all once abundantly available and cheap, affordable food for poor people.

The producers found an export market which offered much better prices, and this in turn drove up the price on the local market. The recent national drive to certify Belize cattle to be eligible for legal export to Mexico may have a similar effect on the local price of beef, when Belize’s cattle ranchers  begin to legally export their livestock to Mexico.

But on the matter of the increase in the price of chicken, Alpuche said, the Belize poultry producers had not informed or even consulted with the Ministry of Agriculture before announcing the price increase.

While he was aware of the external forces which caused the price of soy bean meal and corn to shoot up, he did not see a direct correlation of how a price increase per pound in the price of soy bean meal should translate into a 10-cent increase per pound in the price of the end product, chicken!

The Quality Chicken wholesale outlet on North Front Street, near the Bel-China bridge in Belize City announced the new price was $2.48 per pound for a whole chicken, and that their other products: chicken breast, chicken parts on a tray would also show a similar increase.

But a check at “Bottom Dollar” a few blocks down North Front Street, where Belizean are supposed to “stretch their dollars”, showed that Quality Poultry’s whole chicken was $2.65/lb, so was Fiesta chicken, while Caribbean chicken was $2.70/lb. T

There were no eggs on the shelves, but since chickens also lay eggs, an increase in the price of a dozen eggs may also not be long in coming.

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