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Cooperatives will benefit farmers

A senior agricultural official is encouraging more farmers to join or establish a cooperative to obtain significant long-term benefits.

Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer (Livestock) and Chairman of the World Food Day Organising Committee, Charleston Lucas, suggested that in light of the challenging economic times, agricultural cooperatives were a viable option in terms of saving money and farmers stood a better chance of finding a guaranteed market for their produce.

“The cost of production affects small farmers’ profits significantly. So, if we can get them to come together, they could take advantage of economies of scale, source their inputs in bulk and achieve a sizeable reduction in the price of specific items.

“In terms of marketing produce, together farmers could develop contractual arrangements with supermarkets or other purchasing businesses whereby they can be assured of getting their produce sold,” he pointed out.

For consumers, Lucas said such associations would ensure that there was consistency of supply while it would also aid in the development of a proper grading and standards system for agricultural produce.

He suggested that in joining a cooperative, small farmers would have a stronger voice when negotiating with suppliers and buyers. Cooperatives could also take advantage of several incentives available from the Ministry of Agriculture.

“As a cooperative, farmers can get as high as 75 per cent off the cost of setting up an approved irrigation system. There are also rebates for packaging, sorting, grading, and post-harvest facilities that farmers can access from the ministry,” he said.

Lucas was speaking as Barbados prepares to join the rest of the world in observing World Food Day on October 16 — an annual event which seeks to raise awareness and understanding of ways to end hunger.

The theme for 2012 is Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations said this year’s theme was chosen to highlight the critical “role of cooperatives in improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger”.

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