The Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) is taking Government to task for not putting enough measures in place to foster increased food production in Barbados.
On Monday in the course of the launch of the Capability Constructing in Papaya Production on the Ministry of Agriculture headquarters, Graeme Hall, Christ Church, chief executive officer of the BAS James Paul said he was concerned that the ministry was hosting numerous talkshops that won’t result in improved yields. He was also nervous concerning the lands being taken out of agricultural production for “foolishness”.
“We talk concerning the 25 by 25 initiative (CARICOM’s goal to scale back food imports by 25 per cent by 2025). We wish to provide you with these phrases within the agriculture sector because sometimes it appears that evidently after we speak about growth that’s what we mean. Every five or few years or so we provide you with a buzzword that claims that’s something new, but it surely is distracting,” he said.
“What we actually need to see within the sector is real growth, real production. We’d like to stop this considering that each time we hold a workshop that robotically things will occur.
“Numerous these items is not going to mean anything, if at the tip of the day you will not be producing anything. Sometimes we bring together people in a fantastic constructing . . . but at the tip of the day, what targets are we setting for the sector?”
Paul said that farmers were on the bottom and experiencing real challenges and in lots of instances they simply needed access to resources to combat the issues and the ministry should give attention to empowering them.
“Sometimes the actual issue is that we don’t seek to grasp what the problems are that farmers are having and the way we bring resources to bear, not on the things that we imagine that they do but really, on the problems farmers are having.
“Too often . . . now we have situations where people rise up with some idea, it has no relation to regardless of the sector is experiencing on the time, but by some means we don’t bring the resources to bear to deal with the actual issues that farmers is perhaps having that may just need a little bit of tweaking . . .”
Paul added that it was time for the ministry to set production targets and establish objectives for what it wanted to attain.
“We also must translate it when it comes to acreage because at the identical time after we speak about production, what acreage are we talking about . . . If now we have ten acres today, how will we get it as much as 20, 30, 40 acres?
“It’s inexcusable that while you walk around Barbados you see the quantity of land that’s being taken out of agriculture for foolishness . . . when we should always be actually using that as a method of pushing production. . .”
The BAS head added that there also needed to be a robust marketing campaign, involving supermarkets and other stakeholders to prompt consumers to purchase local food.
He said that one shouldn’t assume that because something was grown locally, that customers would gravitate towards it because the strong North American media influences entice buyers to the purpose where locals believed imported food was superior to local food.
Through the event, Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir said that his ministry was also trying to train 100 field officers to collect critical information from farmers so the ministry would have an actual idea of what’s being planted across the island, when and where and the quantity of acreage in production.
Meanwhile, acting Chief Agriculture Officer Michael James said that papaya, commonly called pawpaw, was a fruit in high demand locally and internationally but local production continued to be significantly impacted by the papaya bunchy top disease.
He said that years ago Barbados was self-sufficient in papaya but in recent times the fruit was in decline.
Economist Damian Coppin said Barbados produced a mean of 156 755 kilogrammes of papaya annually, which represented 66 per cent of what was consumed locally .
He said the opposite 34 per cent, or 79 586 kilogrammes, was imported mostly from Trinidad.
Coppin added that if Barbados ramped up production it will have the ability to satisfy the needs of the domestic market and will supply papayas to the international market as well.
He said the USA imported probably the most papaya on the earth and as a neighbouring hemispheric state, Barbados could easily tap into this market.
The ministry’s papaya initiative involves training workshops for farmers and the creation of a papaya production booklet, through which farmers and other interested individuals could learn best practices and the way to deal with the incurable disease, which causes the leaves at the highest of the tree to molt after which affects the opposite leaves.