One year ago, a local producer of chicken faced an uncertain future and the possibility of shutting it all down, but today they are progressing and feel more certainty in their prospects.
Lance Pinder, Manager at Abaco Big Bird, said that things looked really bad a year ago and “Last summer we were going to shut down.”
“The year before last the government had eliminated controls on the import of foreign chicken reducing the duty rate from 45 to 35 percent and they started taxing us on our raw materials by 10 percent. It was too much,” he said.
So based on a high monthly turnover they were able to survive off their cash flow for a while but by last summer that was coming to an end.
Mr. Pinder said that the new minister (Minister of Financial Services, Ryan Pinder) made changes and they began to see a recovery in their business. He added that the government also made a strong effort to get stores in Nassau to support buying local.
He said that ultimately “The 10 percent went away, but the 1 percent [on the entry forms] put it back to where it was.”
While the flooding of the market with cheap chicken, particularly from Brazil, was not a big issue in Abaco, because it wasn’t well received, in Nassau it hit their business hard.
“It takes a while to catch yourself from something like that so we are just starting to get back to where we can breathe again,” he said. “We never cut any of our staff, we just cut back the hours, but now we are back up to full staff, full time; we’ve even taken on a few temporary people.”
He said that now that they have seen what may come with a liberalized market with World Trade Organization membership they can better position themselves and not worry about having the “rug pulled out from under us.”
“It was a big lesson being in an open market like that; but it was more open that I bet the USA is when it comes to imported items.” Mr. Pinder said. “They at least have a standards bureau and there isn’t a big concern with dumping; but here we were so liberalized and it was crazy.”
He said that for Abaco Big Bird to grow they need to get into more restaurants in the market in Nassau; “we can’t interject into the retail market much more.”
He said next year they are looking to introduce some new products to the market, like vacuum packaged chicken which does really well and they hope to have more money to invest in more equipment. “We’ve had big requests for boneless thighs; so hopefully we’ll get in some new equipment to be able to start doing this,” he said.
He estimates that since Abaco Big Bird has been open that they have spent 25 to 30 million in the local economy and they have now been open for about 18 years.