Troubled crop

cotton harvest threatened by labour shortage

This year’s cotton crop may be in danger with up to 40 per cent of the yield likely to go to waste due to a shortage of cotton pickers.

And farmers say they face an even greater challenge posed by their inability to attract young harvesters to replace the increasingly aging group of labourers.

Chief Executive Officer of Exclusive Cottons of the Caribbean Adlai Stevenson told Barbados TODAY that as much as 20 to 40 per cent of this year’s crop might not be harvested because of the labour shortage.

Stevenson’s company, which produces West Indian Sea Island Cotton, has about 100 acres to be harvested.

He said the scarcity of pickers is a perennial problem, which manifests itself in the reluctance of other farmers to go into cotton production.

“They see the challenges that other farmers have because they can get the cotton planted, they can take care of their plants, they can monitor the pests and deal with them as they appear. But if you can’t get the cotton harvested then that’s not the way you’re going to get your returns,” he stated.

Even at this last minute, with the harvest already underway, Stevenson remained hopeful that jobseekers, particularly the youth, would give the sector another look.

“Everyone has to think long and hard as to how we can get the message across that working in the sun is not something that needs to be shied away from. Rather than liming on the block or sitting at home hoping that someone else finds a way to generate an income, those young persons who are unemployed or underemployed should consider picking cotton.”

The lack of interest displayed by young people remains a concern, even for the current crop of pickers, made up of an older demographic.

Mabel Bascombe, who works at the Halton Plantation in St Philip, told Barbados TODAY there were jobs available but the youth were not interested.

“The young people want to work in easy jobs that they can go in, sign their name and whenever they feel like, [leave], and when they ain’t feel like, don’t go,” she said.

Bascombe said business had been on the decline in the last few years, but she takes pride in what she does. She said when business was good she earned over $300 over a three-day period.

She earns a lot less today, but she has no plans to give up, the elderly cotton picker insisted.

“I’m working Wednesdays and Saturdays and I can’t even get 100 dollars. Still, I ain’t letting it stop me from picking any because this little extra money will come in handy,” she said, noting that she planned to continue “as long as de Lord give me strength”.

Lolita Weekes, who works alongside Bascombe, admits it is hard work but she is encouraging younger people to get involved, adding, it is also honest work.

Cotton Picker Lolita Weekes
Cotton Picker Lolita Weekes

“It all depends on who want to work and who don’t want,” Weekes said of the concerns over the lack of jobs.

“As long as you’re registered anybody can pick cotton.”

10 Responses to Troubled crop

  1. Sharon Taylor
    Sharon Taylor April 16, 2016 at 6:13 am

    Now imagine we have many groups here in Bim dat need money…. Well here is an obvious money making opportunity…. Get ur groups together, dress appropriately, and go pick some cotton…

    • Roslyn Clarke
      Roslyn Clarke April 16, 2016 at 8:12 am

      Sharon – love your idea! Even churches should get their young folks together on a Saturday morning and go make some money for the church!

    • Cherylann Bourne-Hayes
      Cherylann Bourne-Hayes April 16, 2016 at 8:22 am

      Imagine that people can pick cotton make money to buy some food instead of stealing some potatoes and going to jail. Hmmmm

    • Sharon Taylor
      Sharon Taylor April 16, 2016 at 9:46 am

      That cotton should have been long picked….. Would love to see that young gentleman with his homeless programme getting together some of his ppl and go pick some cotton …. Here is some work for the homeless… They just need to get there, lunch for the day and back…. You never know… More businesses may afford the homeless more opportunities when they see that they are willing to put in the work…..

  2. Ras Small
    Ras Small April 16, 2016 at 10:06 am

    I guess none ah wunna never pick cotton b4? Um ain’t easy and $$ is slight. U wid have tah start pick cotton from 5am- 5pm everyday tah mek @ least $500. $1.50 per lb.

    • Coralita April 17, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      When I was growing up my parents, siblings and myself used to pick cotton every year and we made good money doing it. My parents were able to purchase things for our home, even a bed.

      Thing is, we had lots of fun doing it. Even though we we working it was good family time.

      I guess this is a different era, a different generation who wants everything free and easy, no sweating for anything in life.

  3. seagul April 16, 2016 at 10:09 am

    People–the free lunches in the tourists industry are over. The slave wages in the hotels can’t be compared with the honest pay under a mighty sun. No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in plowing a field as in writing a book….Booker.T .
    Garvey, Marley, Malcolm and Martin–they all said it. It’s not about wasting your intelligence, it’s about building soul for the uncertain future in our small Caribbean. It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. As our founding father said–We are not slaves… You look to history to make sense of the world that we find ourselves in…When you encounter racism and understand where it came from. That’s why history has a very special and specific function to play. We need to explain the context in which African people find themselves in today. For someone who was born an African in B’dos, we must not submit rather to the language of racism. We are not “mulattoes people,” we are Africans, blessed within a creative spirit of the Yoruba. There’s no waterfalls, no gold or diamonds so lets be proud and work in a movement for the jewel within.

  4. jrsmith April 16, 2016 at 11:00 am

    That’s too low for bajans picking cotton, growing gaunga and thieving everything that moves that’s middle class Barbados. But see what’s happening they are all ending up at DODDS..we might have to build another prison sooner than later..

    The cotton management don’t need to mess around with bajans recruit from the other islands..

  5. Watchman April 16, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    How many pounds does one pick in 8 hours, enough to cover bus fare, utilities and food for a day ?
    (N.B. I left out rent.)
    If not, $1.50 a pound is too low and that’s the only reason why people are not interested.

    Don’t believe me, advertise on HOTT 95.3, 98.1 The One and Facebook an offer of $100 per pound and check the response.

    Only ignorant, old duffers like those posting above (Not you Ras) would think someone should give away their labour. Mind you they wont do it though, all of them saying that $1.50 hourly good for SOMEBODY ELSE.

  6. F. A. Rudder June 10, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Get smart! a comedy TV show! Just like Maxwell did in the show when he was faced between a rock and a hard place he became innovative and formulated a plan. Now a plan for those workers would be to get smart and start at Oh dark four thirty with a spot lamp and head lamp gear. A smart picker from St. John told me she and her husband would tell the Owner and manager what time they had planned to get to the field and low and behold this duo would have sacks swelling come 11 o’clock while 7 o’ clock workers would be now feeling the heat and furthermore very light dehydrated cotton sack. That’s all folks! ——Ossie Moore!


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