Too costly

Byer-Suckoo raises concern about high food import bill

Barbados’ food import bill is increasing, while its production of vital commodities is decreasing, a Government official has warned.

Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo therefore sees a desperate need for more young Barbadians to get into farming as a means of rescuing the agricultural sector and cutting down the country’s $500 million food import bill.

Delivering the feature address at the Inter American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture’s recent farm graduation programme, Byer-Suckoo also pointed out that the Caribbean Community’s food import billwas expected to double from US$4 billion to US$8 billion by 2020, citing to Food and Agricultural Organization’s projections.

Budding farmer Josiah Hinds (centre) receiving a special award for exemplary performance during IICA Farm programme from Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo and tutor Dr Lena Harvey.

However, she was particularly concerned about the level of domestic food imports, which she described as simply unsustainable given the country’s high fiscal deficit and its dwindling foreign exchange reserves, which fell below the required cover to less than $700 million last December.

“We as people can no longer remain heavily dependent on food imports. We have been hearing for the last several weeks how much money we spend on importing food because here in Barbados we import just about everything . . . . If we are to look at reducing our deficit and our use of foreign exchange and because of the money we spend that is a good place to start,” Byer-Suckoo said, while arguing that a reduction in food imports would redound to more employment opportunities.

However, she expressed concern that farmers were now an aging demographic and “that it was quite possible in the foreseeable future that the agricultural sector could stagnate”.

“In Barbados our national production per capita has declined, most notably in the fruits and vegetables category,” the minister said.

Using statistics from the Barbados Economic and Social Report for 2015, she also reported that “local vegetable production declined by 186 thousand kilogrammes, which is 4.2 per cent, while vegetable imports increased by 16.2 per cent or 406 thousand kilogrammes”.

Byer-Suckoo said the situation was particularly disturbing since the imported crops could easily be grown in Barbados.
“The main commodities which registered increases were tomatoes which increased by 50 per cent, lettuce by 22 per cent, melons by 20 per cent, beets and carrots by 19 per cent, sweet peppers by 17.5 per cent.

“Those are crops that can be grown right here and people can make a decent living off them. Think of the foreign exchange that we can save, the monies that our farmers would earn if instead of importing, they were allowed to supply to our markets and that is not even considering export possibilities,” she stressed.

13 Responses to Too costly

  1. Bobby Gilkes
    Bobby Gilkes July 11, 2017 at 6:11 am

    As usally all you guys do is talk and as i drive by what was once cane ground is now bush

  2. Rawle Spooner
    Rawle Spooner July 11, 2017 at 6:58 am

    Ok politicians make it easier for regular folks to get into farming and deal with persons who gine go around stealing from them.Why does politicians in Barbados talk so much and rarely does anything.

  3. Sophia Cumberbatch
    Sophia Cumberbatch July 11, 2017 at 7:08 am

    Do any of the politicians actually plant anything or is it a case of do as I say but not do as I do cause I know wunna still eating rib eye steak and all other expensive imported goods that wunna could afford when wunna go to Massy with wunna trolley brek back when wunna go to the cashier.

  4. Ryan Coombs
    Ryan Coombs July 11, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Unfortunately for the population here in barbados, persons that are elected are not necessarily managers and as such results in poor/mismanaged public entities. Arguably one of the most if not the most important sector, that being agriculture, should be at or near the cutting edge, it’s true that a great deal of arable land is being squandered or destroyed, and some of those being used correctly are falling victims to larceny. Where vision is lacking the ppl perish.

  5. Howard July 11, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Explain to me how the criticism in the comments is helping anything. Why do we care what food politicians buy? Remind me. What does a politician planting a tree have to do with bringing light to the serious issue at hand? Oh wait you know what..i’m pretty sure Dr. Byer Suckoo isn’t a Member of Parliment and is only a Minister…for Labour. Oh shoot. You know you should really be talking to your MP or the Ministry of Agriculture if your genuinely concerned about the issue and not just talking for no reason. Sounds like a good idea?

    Oh, and there’s always the option of planting your own crops at home in a garden outside or in a little kitchen garden to help at the household level.

    P.S You should read over your comments before you press know, so others can understand what you are saying.

    Much love though.

  6. Helicopter(8P) July 11, 2017 at 9:26 am

    As I have said before ! Some villages across the island are adapted to specified types of crops and produce, by reason of their soils being more suitable to those particular crops. It would be beneficial if those villages co-oped in the production of Fruits , vegetables and produce so as to have better quantity and quality control of their produce. A trade mark labeled with the region or co- op name combined with a Ministry of agriculture inspection stamp.

  7. Adrian Loveridge July 11, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Sad that the Minister did not visit the Carib Food and Hospitality event and that more LOCAL support was not forthcoming for this event. Exhibitors were sufficiently interested to travel from the UK, Spain, Colombia and the US among others, but no Barbados Agricultural Development and Market Corporation (BADMC) presence to highlight LOCAL products.

  8. Adrian Loveridge July 11, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Sad that the Minister did not visit the Carib Food and Hospitality event and that more LOCAL support was not forthcoming for this event. Exhibitors were sufficiently interested to travel from the UK, Spain, Colombia and the US among others, but no Barbados Agricultural Development and Market Corporation (BADMC) presence to highlight LOCAL products.

  9. Milli Watt July 11, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    she came up with that all by her lonesome hmmmmmmm….no wonder she tip to lead the DLP after next year. We in good hands

  10. Milli Watt July 11, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    looking for my passport all now

  11. Alex Alleyne July 11, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    High food bill cos the population increase and eating more. Low water in reservoir cos more houses built with water toilets along with many more vehicles to wash.

  12. Ronald Callender November 12, 2017 at 2:57 am

    This is a sad commentary. I recall “donkey years” ago the call was “buy local.” Now the country is saddled with a $0.5 Billion import bill.

    I don’t blame past governments, the blame rests on the shoulders of Barbadians who elected government after government that ran the country into the “fiscal and economic ditch.” It happened because the same governments failed to develop local businesses in all arenas.

    The Bible tells us the borrower is the servant of the lender. We can replace servant with slave to get, the borrower is the slave of the lender.

    Imagine all developed countries see fit to sign all sorts of trade agreements with other countries (eg, NAFTA, TPP, EEC, Etc.), but Barbados and the other Caribbean countries believe they can do it on their.

    The only thing they can experience on their own is to be picked off one by one. We know big fish devour small fish.

    Going to school and being schooled to get a decent white collar job and governing and growing an economy in this dog-eat-dog age are two vastly different things.

    All the good arable land was sold for housing developments is no longer an asset for the country, but an albatross because people are now saddled with mortgages for houses built on said land.

    Barbados needs a renovation. The sooner everyone sees that necessity, the better. As the oil-change commercial said, “Pay me now or pay me later.” Pay me now represents an oil filter for say, $3.99. Pay me later the cost of rebuilding the engine say, $5,000.00. Barbadians take your pick.

    I believe I’m more disappointed than you, based on the fact you’re still taking sides, eating, drinking, and being merry, while the country lies in the ICU.

    Hold politicians’ feet to the proverbial fire. Ask them pointed questions, and make decision based on their history, not on their promises. It’s too late for the latter.

    Find out who has the people’s best interest at heart by looking at their platform. If something isn’t in the platform, it means they will not do it.

    I’m praying for you.

    • Ronald Callender November 12, 2017 at 3:03 am

      Sorry, the word “own” as in “on their own” should end the 4th paragraph above. Thanks.


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