Inside the chicken coup
By Terry Joseph
September 12, 2003
After months of sporadic skirmishes between the liberation forces and poultry alliance troops on rural farms in Pinto Road, San Raphael, Subratee Road and on the Fernandes compound in Laventille, the crisis last week escalated to full-scale confrontation.
Latest news from central command was that chicken prices apparently formed a powerful airborne division, going sky-high, bombarding consumers with regular increases. The battle was now properly joined. Being imbedded with the liberation forces, my mission was to stay in the vanguard, filing accounts of the final conflict as it unfolded.
It was a war of words, really, pure poultry in motion, with Prime Minister Patrick Manning as commanding officer of liberation forces that included Consumer Affairs Lieutenant Camille Robinson-Regis, launching pocket-propelled tirades against farmers, accusing them of plunder and torture.
Acting on information that housewives were being robbed at pluck shops in broad daylight, the forces set out to redress that situation first. In a formidable but contained show of strength, Gen Manning and Lt Robinson-Regis emerged from the war-room last Thursday and, in full view of the media, trained their ordnance on the poultry alliance, firing a single cheat-seeking missile.
In a rousing speech to the troops, Lt Robinson-Regis, whose recent combat experience includes the intense campaign against a threat of increased bread prices, said the cost of fresh whole birds rose by 85.5 per cent since the turn of the year, going from $2.48 per pound in January to $4.70 by last month's Independence holiday.
It was clear to both the lieutenant and her commanding officer that only they could liberate housewives from the axis of evil in the east. Code-named Operation Hot Wings, the campaign was formally launched at the news conference. Political gains from a favourable outcome would include eternal gratitude from the little people, who would later show it even in constituencies traditionally controlled by opposition forces.
Tightening her anti-shrapnel vest, Lt Robinson-Regis disclosed that intelligence sources had identified a cartel developing, one with capability to launch even higher prices within 45 days. It clearly possessed weapons of mass disruption and could not be depended upon for self-imposed restraint.
Like any good revolutionary in the command position, she then delivered an ultimatum: "Bring chicken prices back to reasonable levels in seven days or we will remove the 88 per cent surcharge on imported poultry." Implicit in her demand was the threat of completely demolishing the local industry if compliance took longer.
Poulet producers were under siege. By Monday, well before the deadline for abidance, their first flank capitulated. We watched from the foxhole as the Subratee Road battalion with arms upraised, dropped their weapons by 20 cents per pound. Although with wobbling defiance, other contingents were holding out still.
Earlier that day, the poultry alliance met for more than three hours at a secret bunker to revise its strategy but, espionage agents reported, internecine conflict dogged the talks, rendering them inconclusive, leaving their generals as vulnerable to attack as a clean-neck fowl.
Meanwhile, the liberation forces disseminated a steady stream of multi-media propaganda, defending the housewives who, quite unlike chicken and chips chains, had no long-term contracts guaranteeing stable prices. For much the same reason, roti-makers and itinerant barbeque vendors were also lining up with the liberation forces.
Already on the run, alliance generals were accused of feathering their own nests at the expense of little people, always a sound political platform and one further validated by the reality that, per capita, we are in the senior league of globally-ranked chicken consumption.
Mark you, during that same week, within the ranks of the liberation forces there was talk of banning cigarette advertising on the basis of health concerns, but no mention surfaced about hazards associated with consumption of poultry products.
Meanwhile, back on the front, finding themselves cornered both on the war front and in the public relations tilting, alliance generals sought to return to diplomacy, in order to avert a wipe-out. The four generals met with Lt Robinson-Regis Tuesday, promising to hold prices of live broilers between $3.50 and $4.25 per pound "as long as industry conditions permitted".
Not about to diminish the halo of imminent triumph, Lt Robinson-Regis told them the matter was on the agenda of the wider war council and would have to await the outcome of this week's meeting, which had the option to remove the 88 per cent surcharge on imported chicken.
With precise strikes and overall superior strategy, the liberation forces quickly corralled poultry alliance troops and had them squarely in the cross-hairs. It was, in fact, a spectacular coup. No prisoners were taken, but the alliance generals know that the liberation forces still hold the axe, waiting on their response before deciding if to swing it. Prices came tumbling down, reaching as low as $3.50.
The move was welcomed by all the little people. There was dancing and singing in the streets and throughout the land the liberation forces were welcomed as heroes of the working class.
Other reports you may have heard came from the group the commanding officer once dubbed "community leaders" who, meanwhile, seem to have returned to discharging rounds of ammunition for other reasons that have little to do with general jollification at the outcome of the chicken coup.