Crisis point

Barbados’ food security under threat – agriculture official

A top Government official today warned that Barbados’ agriculture sector was now at the point of crisis, and its food security under severe threat.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Esworth Reid, issued the grim assessment as he addressed the official launch of the Youth Agri-preneurship Incubator Programme, which aims to attract young people to the industry.

While welcoming the European Union-funded initiative, Reid pointed out that recent “reliable” studies had shown that the greater part of our farming community in Barbados and the wider Caribbean was over the age of 60.

Therefore, “if a concerted and serious effort is not made to replenish this creative segment of the farming community, our agriculture sector and our food security in the very near future will be seriously compromised,” he said.

Reid further cautioned that the agriculture sector had either reached or was bordering “crisis status”, while noting that there were a number of young people who were eager to come up with innovative and workable ideas that could help the sector.

However, he said some people “in management and decision making positions” were quick to dismiss their ideas and say they cannot work, without even considering them.

The agriculture sector has either reached or is bordering crisis status, says Permanent Secretary Esworth Reid.
The agriculture sector has either reached or is bordering crisis status, says Permanent Secretary Esworth Reid.

“Such an attitude is non-productive and people who are placed in positions of management of any form of decision making that can adopt such an attitude can only be referred to as professional obstructionists to the country’s progress,” charged Reid.

“I cannot help but to say that Barbados might have missed out on becoming the hub of innovation in the area of scientific research and development, especially in an important economic sector such as agriculture . . . because of this kind of attitude that only stagnate the chances for progress,” he added.

Based on the amount of money spent on education and training over the years, the agriculture official also strongly contended that the island should have been “on the cutting edge of scientific research and development”.

“This, however, is not the case. Many developing countries have moved ahead of us, especially in alternative methods of agricultural produce,” Reid said.

He said he was hoping that the new agri-preneurship programme, which will focus on organic farming, business development, research methods and technology in agriculture, would help to address the issues.

“Other than just focusing on sand and sea we need to use our human resource and our land to research, to develop and grow. It however, needs the kind of unwavering support of our political leaders and those in decision making positions in the private sector where most of the financial resource is, to make things happen.”

In giving his assessment of the situation, the Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul said he did not agree with Reid that the entire agriculture sector was at a crisis point.

However, Paul, who is also a Government backbencher, conceded that critical steps needed to be taken in order to keep it alive.

He explained that by increasing the yield of some crops, especially sugar cane and cotton, operational costs could be driven down.

In terms of decision-making, Paul lamented that there were too many inconsistencies.

“. . . sometimes at different levels you find different levels of cooperation in the industry and I think that has been the problem,” he said.

“What is more important is that we involve people in the industry. There are some people who do not have businesses in agriculture and they want to tell people in agriculture how to run their businesses. They cannot do that.

“What we need to see is a more bottom up approach to the management of the industry where those people who actually manage agriculture businesses they are listened to more. That would address the slowness of decision makers,” said Paul.

4 Responses to Crisis point

  1. Patrick Blackman June 9, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    if you favour foreign investment in terms of high-end residential development at the expense of food security then this is what you get. Just the other day, there was an article about 475 acres under development etc.. and how good it was going. Some may say that this was not agricultural land, may be, may be not, but it clearly sends a message about our land use policy or lack therefof.

  2. jus me June 9, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Patrick you do talk some bare sh**e

    Anyone with 1/2 a brain(which lets you out) knows there is too much damned land that could be used for food and if 1/2 of it was ,there would be so much produce ,that prices would hit bottom.

    Look at now ,Farmers DONT FARM, they gamble.THAT THEY WILL hit the week they harvest as when “cumbers” are 3$ a lb or some crazy price.
    Its a crazy useless system which isnt even a system, just a roulete wheel,on which farmers throw the dice of their work.
    Ask Mr Paul, what record of plantings is kept to advise farmers when to plant ,WHAT to plant, so we have constant supplies at reasonable prices that suit the grower and the buyer.
    YUH DOES know Dat,cos the Politrickers are busy flappin dem mouts to look good in print.

    NOW look at “upmarket “houses.
    BIG Landtax, plus Need cook , need gardener, need others constantly week in week out and at decent salary.

    NOT ONLY that but are you aware(of anything) that most farming entities have HUGE amounts of RAB (Rocky and Barren)land that landcan be used for Houses.These redmen pay crazy loot for living in a GREEN environment
    AND we dont have to use one acre of good land(just to shut you up) even tho we could ,cos there is too much anyway, as I said

  3. Patrick Blackman June 9, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    @jus me: Land use policy.. have a read you may learn something. High-end residential development does not create real jobs sustainable jobs, are we suppose to be a nation of maids and gardeners (low skill, low paying jobs), even the construction workers don’t get that much.

    These kind of development inflate the price of real estate making the cost of purchasing a lot out of the reach of the average citizen.

    If we have so much land available for farming why aren’t we farming? I guess we prefer to import everything we need wasting foreign exchange. What you also fail to explore is the problem praedial larceny.

  4. winston June 9, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    We are going to be in trouble in a few years because persons assigned to this important Ministry do the work of getting agriculture moving on is fighting to do somebody’s else job-shame on us.
    When last Barbados had a proper Minister of Agriculture, I don’t know many many moons ago.


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