The poultry industry has not been left untouched by the coronavirus. A few weeks ago, there was a shortage of chicken and this week, one of the biggest producers, Caribbean Chicken, closed its processing plant when an employee was infected and died due to the virus. Contact tracing of employees and sanitization are taking place.  The events have prompted producers to ramp up production to meet the high demand for the staple. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano with a report.

Raymond Barkman, General Manager, Quality Poultry Products

“I believe that you can go back as many years as you want to, in the whole history of Belize, they have never, ever been short of chicken before COVID-19 and you can ask any store owner, you can ask any Belizean who’s been around for the last fifty years.”

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Satisfying the year-round demand for chicken has never been this challenging for the poultry sector.  Along with COVID-19 has come an overwhelming consumer interest in purchasing chicken which has forced a record shortage on the local market.

Raymond Barkman

“We are getting very, very close to being on target.  It looks like this will still be happening.  I know that I have gotten reports that we have chicken in every store in Belize City and so forth and that we are catching up with the demand.  So I really feel good that throughout this weekend and the next, the chicken shortage and I feel a little scared saying it but I think we’re on the right path and I think that by now I can say safely that at all of our branches you will find chicken, no matter any given day, any given time, right.”

That’s because just a few weeks ago, there was a dearth in the supply of chicken across the country.  Despite being able to produce as much as it was prior to COVID-19, Quality Poultry Products, much like its competitors, was unable to meet the extremely large demand for chicken.

Raymond Barkman

“I know we have never had a chicken shortage before and I am getting this from a lot of our old faithful customers who have been with us from the beginning of time.  They said they have never remembered a shortage like this ever, in the history of Belize.”

While this is a historic first for the sector, so too is COVID-19.  What appears to be an outbreak among employees of Caribbean Chicken has since forced the closure of all of its locations across the country.  It is a serious concern for the Belize Poultry Association, including Quality Chicken.

Raymond Barkman

“When COVID-19 came in March we implemented our COVID-19 safety protocols and in fact I’ve been spending this week going over them to make sure, I know we have fifteen of them.  So there’s fifteen sections that we have to go through, that our employees go through to get into the processing plant for example, starting with temperature checks as they go in the bus and disinfecting the buses every morning and so forth.  So right now, all we are doing is that we are trying to make sure that the measures we implemented for COVID-19 at our company are being followed and we’re performing them as best as we can and we hope and pray that that will carry us through.”

Notwithstanding these strict measures, as has been the case in other areas, the novel coronavirus has proven itself more than formidable an unseen opponent. One slip in judgment can jeopardize an entire operation.

Raymond Barkman

“It’s very catastrophic for the company that gets affected by it and it’s very sad.  But yeah, I would assume that is what would happen.”

Isani Cayetano

“Can you share with us, if any, whatever protocol you guys have internally at Quality should there be either a diagnosis of a case in your plant or perhaps an outbreak in your plant?”

Raymond Barkman

“Well you see when we get to that stage where we have an outbreak in our plant we are at the mercy of the Ministry of Health.”

Channel 5