Call for agriculture subsidy to help tackle tough times

The operator of one of Barbados’ top farms is calling for a Government subsidy for the agriculture sector in response to the rising cost of doing business.

Richard Armstrong, managing director of ARMAG Farm, says his fuel bill has risen by as much as $5,000 a month, and he is spending far more money on irrigation due to the prolonged dry period.

According to Armstrong, the duty-free concession given to agricultural entities was no longer enough and Government needed to step in.

Veteran farmer  and agro-processor David Armstrong.
Veteran farmer and agro-processor Richard Armstrong.

“I feel it is cheaper for the Government to help agriculture and lessen the food import bill than to try to get everything they can out of agriculture in terms of taxes on fuel and then have to spend probably millions of dollars to import food that could be grown here cheaper,” he said.

“All the developed countries in the world do it. The United States government subsidizes its agriculture industry to the tune of $20 billion a year. So, yes, a subsidy. I honestly believe it will pay them in the long run.”

Less than a month ago, Government launched a Market Information System (MIS) to help reduce the country’s reliance on imported food by providing information on trends and other developments on the local market.

Asked his opinion on the system, valued at $1 million, Armstrong said he would be taking a wait-and-see approach.

“I will have to see it working before I can say if it’s good or bad. If it works it will be good, however I have seen initiatives like this being brought forward so many times in this business and they fall by the wayside. It’s not an easy thing to do. I know they have good intentions and they have good plans and I hope it works,” he said.

Meanwhile, CEO of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, says the MIS would be useful if all stakeholders get involved.

“We have to pay particular attention to the actual production units, and now we have the Market Information System, what it does is it allows you to at least be able to know what is available and who the buyers are likely to be and for the buyers say who the suppliers are likely to be.

“It would also in my mind help greatly in the reducing the incidences of predial larceny, because I think as more and more people get on to it, people would be less reluctant to purchase from them,” Paul said.


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