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Not all concrete

Real estate developer wants lands retained for agriculture

A leading real estate developer is lamenting the state of the island’s plantation properties and is calling for agricultural land in some parishes to be saved.

Pointing out that only about half of land available for agriculture was actually in production, Chief Executive of Terra Caribbean, Andrew Mallalieu, acknowledged that while there was rapid housing and business development in some parishes, such as St Michael, St James and Christ Church, he believed other parishes should not experience the same fate.

Mallalieu was responding to concerns that real estate development could be responsible for the decrease in agricultural land in some parishes, especially St Michael and St James. He was speaking today at the official launch of The Red Book, an annual publication of Terra Caribbean, which focuses on the Barbados property market.

Chief executive officer of Terra Caribbean Andrew Mallalieu

Chief executive officer of Terra Caribbean Andrew Mallalieu

“Ultimately, St Michael [might] have zero agriculture but what we need to do is make sure that while we are losing all the land to residential, industry and [other developments], we are not losing St John, St Thomas, and parts of St George – parishes that have high rainfall [and] good soil content . . . At the end of the day there needs to be a balance,” said Mallalieu.

He added: “The balance from a real estate point of view that worries me, and I have written about this going back many years, is that Barbados agriculture was not only the bread basket producing foreign exchange through sugar, but the manicure of the land was beautiful and the plantations were profitable so they kept their drainage in good conditions and they kept their wells clean. All that is finished now.”

“They are not profitable and they are not making money. Plantations, a lot of them are in bush. The ones that are not in bush are losing money and it’s just good custodians of the land who are trying to do their best with the sugar and vegetables,” he lamented.

“. . . the more flooding we get from rain is because the [maintenance] of our drainage in those plantations (is) not being done well. So that worries me significantly. And it would worry me if we lose all of our land in St George, St Thomas and St John in those areas and the agriculture was gone from there.”

Chief operating officer of Terra Caribbean,  Hayden Hutton, said that based on research, the total acreage of land that could be considered under plantation ownership had dwindled to about 42,000 – about half of what it was in 1913.

“We have done an analysis of the total unimproved value of remaining plantation acreage on the island, which is $694 million [as of 2012],” pointed out Hutton.

In his contribution to The Red Book, Hutton stated that “the issue of land use and specifically the conversion of agricultural land to other use continues to be a hot-button issue with many facets”. He said some changes in land use could be seen as “favourable”, pointing to the five-star Sandy Lane Estate as one example.

“It should be noted that the physical Development Plan (2003) sets out a very comprehensive and strategic approach to the management of agricultural lands,” said Hutton.

“The plan was intended to provide a framework for physical development until 2010. Hence, there is now discussion about a fourth iteration of the plan, which will guide Barbados’ development in the coming years.”

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