The Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) has really helpful a ban on the importation of certain produce which could reduce the island’s $700 million food import bill by a minimum of $2 million.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) James Paul told a press conference on the BAS’ headquarters on Friday that farmers had the capability to satisfy local demand for pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, and carrots, and the importation of those vegetables and fruit was undermining the industry.
“We’d like to have a situation where imports are higher regulated on this country . . . . I feel those imports must be banned whether or not they’re coming from CARICOM [the Caribbean Community]. Barbadian farmers possess the potential to provide those products and at very competitive prices,” he contended.
Paul added that it made no sense to ask farmers to ramp up production to spice up the country’s food security when imports were still saturating the local market and forcing farmers to sell their products way below market price.
That, he said, was an indication of disrespect to farmers who toiled to support their families and supply nutritious food for Barbadians.
Paul told reporters that one or two containers of bananas had recently been imported, significantly impacting the island’s 4 major producers.
He said banana farmers here were producing about 3 000 boxes of the fruit weekly and had expressed interest in increasing production, but were concerned they might not have a marketplace for the extra produce.
The BAS boss further called for greater collaboration between stakeholders within the agricultural sector and the Ministry of Commerce which is answerable for issuing import licences.
“There must be a working relationship between our producers and buyers,” he added. “We have now seen an attempt by the Ministry of Agriculture to contact us when there’s a request on the market and importation of certain commodities but I would love to see that across the board in respect of all commodities that we produce in Barbados, [so] that we don’t have a situation where import licences are granted without consultation [with] the farmers’ representatives, by way of what’s on the bottom.”
One among Paul’s other recommendations was for national planting coordination so authorities could have an idea of what crops were being produced and the way much of those crops were planted.
Throughout the press conference, the BAS CEO also complained about an absence of proper investment within the sector by successive governments.
He said that over time, his organisation had been making an impact in its efforts to lobby for farmers and hoped they may realise some more victories.