Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick (File photo)

More than 6,000 farmers across Barbados will now get an ease in their pockets in the purchase of agriculture-related materials.

Under a new Farmers’ Incentive Scheme unveiled this morning by Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, both large and small farmers will no longer have to pay up front for items bought from suppliers and then wait for a refund under an existing rebate scheme.

Speaking at a press conference at his ministry, Estwick explained that for a long time now, farmers had been complaining of having challenges with respect to the level of support provided to them by the Government.

“Part of the problem with respect to that position taken, related to the fact that many of the farmers’ incentive programmes were rebate programmes. That is, whether you were a small farmer, a medium size farmer or a large farmer, you had to find the money up front to go and buy the implements to execute an agricultural process,” the agriculture minister said.

He explained that whether it was a simple item from a spray can to a tractor, farmers faced the problem of having to provide the cash on the spot and then apply to the Ministry of Agriculture for a particular level of rebate in relation to that item.

“I want to thank the ministry in particular, for redesigning that system and [we’re] now ready to role out a new agricultural incentive programme, which is a pre-paid incentive scheme,” announced the minister.

“What this in fact means is that, for the first time in Barbados, whether you are a small farmer, or a large farmer, you will be able to go to a supplier of agricultural materials and other supplies, and you will get the value of what the rebate used to be, up front, in an LPO (local purchase order) from the ministry that you can take to the supplier; and therefore, that quantity of money that you would have in value with the LPO, will be used along with your cash, to purchase the item.”

The Cabinet minister was of the view, that this new type of agricultural programme, would not only attract additional persons into the industry, but would help existing farmers to expand their operations.

“It would not only improve their cash flow, but it would improve their capacity to renew their equipment and to purchase new equipment in general, or repairs,” Estwick observed.

He said the scheme would also assist young people who wanted to enter agriculture to “get a foot in”, in that they no longer had to find all of the funds up front to buy the necessary equipment to start their operations.

The government official also revealed that the new scheme would run alongside the old rebate programme, for the benefit of those who still wanted to use the rebate. He was sure, too, that the incentive scheme would improve food security and promote productivity. (EJ)

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