Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Don’t focus only on the bottom line


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At the risk of over-milking the dairy issue, I needs must answer Pat Hoyos’ “comment” in this week’s Sunday Sun.
By the way, I once did a similar propaganda job for Pine Hill Dairy and got handsomely paid. Hoyos is a publisher and should demand just reward to publish it, whatever it may be.  
Like other Brass Tacks moderators of late, his main concern seems to be the bottom line. It’s almost as if they’ve all been homogenized.
Basically, Hoyos thinks consumers are paying too much for fresh milk, which could be imported at a lower cost. He apparently doesn’t care that (as pointed out by Banks big pappy Richard Cozier himself) Bajan farmers are competing against subsidized imported milk. The bottom line for him is that Bajan consumers should get the cheapest milk possible.
In my view, this is too simplistic. First, product: it amazes me that, with all the scandals of horsemeat substituted for beef, fish not what it is claimed to be, outbreaks of salmonella in developed countries, product recalls and whatnot, Bajans still trust imported food.
A few years back, we could’ve got him some real rock bottom milk from China. Only problem, it had in melamine (used to make plastics, fertilizers and concrete) which killed six babies and made 300 000 ill.
And while we’re unlikely to import Chinese milk, what about the “Chernobyl” milk, so called because it was rumoured to have come from the area of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster?
Some said the radiation levels in it were so high a glassful before bedtime would cause your extremity to glow in the dark. I have this abiding fear that some night the wife will mistake my extremity for her Vicks inhaler and shove it up her nose, so I was all in favour.
We never did find out if they dumped, returned or sold it to Saddam for biological warfare. One report claimed radiation levels weren’t that bad.
Check some videos on milking in the big countries, Hoyos. They aren’t nearly as fussy as we are about cleaning udders and hygiene. But hey, if you like poop in your milk, imported’s the way to go.
Secondly, jobs. America too went with the Hoyos bottom line theory: sent home the local workforce; outsourced to Mexico, China and India. The consumers loved the cheap imported products. Unfortunately, the millions who lost their jobs were also consumers. The economy collapsed. Now Obama’s trying desperately to in-source.
Thirdly, we make the proud boast that Bajan agricultural workers are the best paid in the region. Many countries produce cheap food because workers are paid next to nothing. Or nothing. Google “Brazil’s 200 000 ethanol slaves”. Can you and your fellow bottom-liners enjoy imported milk-shakes in your air-conditioned jacuzzis knowing this to be the case, Hoyos?
So, don’t let’s give up on what has been, and can still be, a viable option for Barbados. Yes, adjustments need to be made. We dairy farmers were advised by Dr Lynn Blaylock to feed high levels of concentrate, given the relatively cheap grain products then available. Now we have to take fresh guard.
Pine Hill has to improve efficency and convince us it isn’t trying to shut the industry down to favour foreign producers. It has been a revelation to hear supermarket customers raving over Mr Jackman’s My Milk and Mauby-Milk and Mr Foster’s unpasteurized. Suddenly people seem to be realizing how good milk can taste.
In its original jurisdiction, Pine Hill was given the go-ahead to make its millions out of importing cheap powder to produce “evaporated” milk. In return, it was mandated to facilitate development of the local dairy industry.
Last one. Looking over her books recently, the wife commented: “Do you realize we’re millionaires?” Not boasting, mind you. Millionaires are a dime a dozen these days. Cozie and Hoy are no doubt multis. Still, it’s something.
And think. We started on 14 acres of open land. No inherited money. Given the same equation, my beloved Vaucluse could be home to 80 to 100 similar millionaires. Sir Hilary’s 30 acres at Dukes could sport another two. And so on.
This is no time to downpress your fellow Bajans, Hoyos. Instead, let’s build together.
• Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email


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