Despite a Ministry of Agriculture-imposed ban on the importation of chicken leg quarters, necks and backs, importers have found a new way to beat the system and bring the banned products into the island.
The Gleaner has learnt that clever importers have now turned to importing seasoned chicken parts, which are not restricted and attract a 40 per cent duty.
This has allowed importers to sell the products at cheaper prices, giving them a competitive edge over local producers.
The importers are able to bring in the chicken products without attracting any penalty or violating the current ban due to a loophole in the existing importation laws.
“There is an international definition in all the customs gazettes across the world that if you dip chicken into salt so (that) it becomes chicken in brine instead of fresh chicken, then it is listed as a different product,” Keith Amiel, manager of corporate affairs at Caribbean Broilers, explained.
He said that because Jamaica was concentrating on fresh products and not further processing, the authorities did not worry about the duties on what are designated as further processed products.”
Mr. Amiel said that “just by dipping the same leg quarters into brine, the duty falls from 260 per cent to 40 per cent.”
According to him, just fewer than 10 trailers of seasoned chicken parts were brought into the island over the Indepen-dence holiday.
Christopher Levy, vice-president of operations at the Jamaica Broilers Group, said it was becoming a concern although there has not been an ‘onslaught’ of seasoned chicken parts being imported at the moment.
Mr. Levy said his company was working with the Ministry of Agriculture to correct the loophole in the system in order to prevent any abuse.
Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke was forced to impose a ban on the importation of chicken parts, necks and backs in June after local chicken producers complained that chicken parts were being imported cheaply under the guise of chicken necks and backs.
An investigation, which is still ongoing, was subsequently launched into what was found to be widespread illegal importation of chicken parts. At the time Mr. Clarke said his ministry had given permits for the importation of 1.4 million kg of chicken leg quarters between January and June.
However, figures from exporters in the United States indicate that 8.5 kg of chicken leg quarters were shipped to Jamaica in the same period, as opposed to 1.4 kg of chicken backs and necks.