Back to the Budget of a few weeks ago. Many may have missed it, many would have wondered why they were included in a Budget Speech and many are still wondering what is the real story behind black belly sheep making up a budget speech delivery when truth be told they had nothing to do with government revenue or expenditure.
Fenty is Rihanna’s brand and black belly sheep is one of the components of the Barbados brand. Rihanna would never consider devaluing the Fenty brand so everyone should be quite concerned and question why the Government of Barbados wants to devalue the black belly sheep brand.
In a part of her speech, the Prime Minister mentioned quite a few things in relation to black belly sheep that leads to the devaluation of the brand.
- She stated that the sheep were to be raised in Guyana and then shipped to Barbados for slaughter. This may not be a good idea as there is no evidence provided that black belly sheep can thrive under the conditions that exist in Guyana.
- She mentioned that the black belly sheep will be cross bred with another type of sheep in Guyana. This means that there is some knowledge that the black belly sheep cannot thrive in Guyana. If they could indeed thrive, there would be no need to cross breed to create a hybrid.
- One can only presume that this cross breed would be more suited to the environment in Guyana. A cross between a horse and a donkey creates a mule. What will the cross bred be? The soil and vegetation are not the same so therefore, the meat and fat content will not be the same and the quality of the hide will not be the same.
- She also mentioned the sale of two types of meat. One of the pure black belly sheep and the other of the cross breed. The pure black belly will be for export and the diluted cross breed for local consumption. Will they be packaged accordingly? How will a consumer know that they are consuming the diluted version and not the authentic brand? Will the taste and texture of the meat be the same?
- Have 400 years of slavery damaged us so psychologically that it is still acceptable to be offered food that is less than the best or can we still be forced to eat what the ruling class would never eat?
- She mentioned that there would be a price differential. How will Barbadians feel knowing that they may not be able to afford an authentic brand that was created right in their own backyard centuries ago? How will they feel knowing that they are forced to settle for a substitute? Is the meat of the authentic black belly sheep which will be exported for a premium price be too good for Barbadians to consume?
- It was not stated that government of itself would be farming the black belly sheep so why was it so quick to come up with the price differentials between the meat of the authentic brand and the diluted product, given that the production cost will be the same?
Two burning questions that remain, are which of the local farmers can afford to start a sheep farm in Guyana and if this venture is only for the select few. One will only know both literally and figuratively if the project gets off the ground and the meat comes to market.
A brand is a unique identity. The government of Barbados should get some help from Rihanna on how to market this authentic brand. Rihanna would never collaborate with anyone to dilute her brand and sell her merchandise at a cheaper price. If that were the case, she would not be a billionaire today. So why is the Government of Barbados destroying the identity of the black belly sheep to promote a cross bred hybrid? Who will be enriched through this venture?
I am all for the creation of an enhanced product but not for a dilution and devaluation of the black belly sheep brand of Barbados. Governments action to alter the breed of the sheep does not offer increased value since it has stated that the cross breed will be sold at a cheaper price.
Livestock rearing is not new to Barbados. Some of the land that will no longer be used to produce sugar cane can be used to rear sheep. Incentives can be offered to small farmers and all of Barbados to raise and produce this product for local consumption and for export while maintaining the authenticity of the brand. Government can also ensure that the real black belly sheep meat is available to all Barbadians by fixing its price per pound on the domestic market.