Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir has warned that Barbadians will face even higher food costs and better levels of food insecurity in the approaching months because the war in Ukraine drags on, if motion isn’t taken.
It was against this background that he said the Government was moving full steam ahead with the establishment of the highly-touted Barbados/Guyana food terminal to be constructed at Lears, St Michael.
Disclosing that the ability which is able to function a hub to transship agricultural produce between the island and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states will cost roughly $32 million, Weir said February 2023 has been set for the groundbreaking ceremony.
He told journalists on Friday that the design stage was well advanced for the purpose-built facility that can accommodate about forty-five 20-foot containers at any time and have a state-of-the-art packaging line.
“The designers were in Guyana this week to settle the ultimate specs for the food terminal. Once we’re back we’re then going to go to Town Planning to get approval. I even have set next yr February because the goal for when we are going to turn soil to start out the development of the constructing there,” Weir announced on the sidelines of day two of the four-day Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) Trade and Innovation Expo on the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
“They’re telling me that it will take about 24 months. I believe if we take a modular approach to this we will deliver it in about 16 to 18 months. I’m starting the method [of] ensuring we will get all of our agricultural produce . . . even when we’ve to make use of a brief storage facility through Export Barbados (BIDC),” the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security said.
An element of the plan is an agro-processing component that’s to be done through an investment out of Trinidad, starting early next yr. Weir said a state-of-the-art abattoir.
“Prospectus for the food terminal and the abattoir ought to be accomplished by the tip of this month, and investors may have a possibility to take a look at that prospectus to find out where their investments are going to go,” he said.
Stating that a link between manufacturing and agriculture will help the region to stave off a food crisis, Weir said the region wouldn’t give you the option to manage for much longer should the war in Ukraine proceed indefinitely.
“The Russia and Ukraine conflict will result in further disruptions in the worldwide supply chain and you’ll be able to see increased spikes in the price of oil and essential grains utilized in the agricultural sector. The feed is a problem; the grains which are imported would present tremendous challenges for the manufacturers.”
“I should not have a number of confidence in what is occurring with that conflict with Russia and Ukraine, given the indisputable fact that Putin has demonstrated clearly the more we dig within the deeper he’s going to go,” the Agriculture Minister said.
“The truth is that we now need to look further on the importance of food security within the region in order that we get a transparent understanding of where our leaders are going with this,” added Weir, as he reminded that CARICOM was on a mission to significantly reduce the region’s food import bill, which was estimated to have climbed past the $700 billion mark last yr.
He said it was critical that Barbados and the opposite regional states push ahead with the food terminal.
Weir explained that the ability will play a critical role within the region’s ability to provide and store a wide range of crops which are currently being imported.
“We’re going to be replacing them between Barbados, Guyana, Suriname and Roraima in northern Brazil, and we are going to then give you the option to pass all of this stuff through the food terminal, either for storage [or] packaging,” he said.
Weir added that the food terminal will help to create new entrepreneurs and opportunities for locals to speculate, help lower the food import bill, save foreign exchange, and construct food security.
He said once the region is capable of meet domestic demands for businesses and individuals, it might probably look to export and provide the cruise industry.
“I even have met with one among the cruise ships already. They got here here to do an assessment of what is feasible inside agriculture and the way we will do the provisioning and we’ve discussed a lot of things we will work on,” he said.
The Agriculture Minister also disclosed that Barbados has shipped 131 black belly sheep to Guyana and one other 870 were to be shipped to finish the quota by the tip of this month. (MM)