The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Security joins the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in celebrating World Food Day, October 16.
This year’s theme, “Leave No One Behind: Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life”, reinforces the importance of developing food systems that can withstand shocks such as climatic events, pandemics and political unrest, so that there is minimal disruption to the supply of fresh, safe and nutritious foods to all citizens, including the most vulnerable.
As Barbados continues to grapple with the severe impact of climate change on crop and livestock yields, the global supply deficits generated by the COVID-19 pandemic; and the effects of the Russia/Ukraine war, with price hikes triggered by grain and oil shortages, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Security is determined to ‘leave no-one behind’.
The Ministry is persevering in its efforts to combat the dry conditions precipitated by climate change. The recently-expanded Brown’s Pond at River Plantation, with a storage capacity of 6 million gallons, is in operation and will service the 60 acres there; whilst the pump house at Lears which is 95% complete, will facilitate the distribution of water from the 21 million gallon reservoir to over 100 farmers and allotment gardeners to benefit from that programme.
The Government is also seeking to alleviate challenges faced by farmers associated with the rising costs of feed inputs. At the domestic level, my Ministry is currently involved in discussions with local animal feed producer, Pinnacle Feeds Ltd., about ways to ensure that price increases are either avoided, or kept at a minimum.
As a small country, Barbados is a price taker within the global marketplace. It is therefore now urgent, perhaps more than ever, for local businesses to identify and pursue lower cost inputs, even if it means a movement away from traditional source markets. In many cases, my Government can assist with identifying cheaper source markets without compromising input quality.
The Ministry’s Farmers’ Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED) Programme, executed by the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) continues to attract interest, with some 351 participants registered in the last cohort in August 2022. Further, the Programme has seen increased crop-planting at Mt. Poyer, Wakefield Plantation and Bath Plantation. I am particularly pleased that lands at Spencer’s Plantation are being brought back into production.
The recently-launched Community Agricultural Response and Empowerment (CARE) Project seeks to improve the quality of life of persons living below the poverty line, by providing opportunities for communities to grow their own food. The BADMC and the Barbados Agricultural Management Company Ltd. (BAMC) will offer support with land clearing, cultivation and planting material.
Notwithstanding local efforts to boost agricultural output, the Government of Barbados recognizes that alliances between countries are critical to the Caribbean becoming self-sufficient in the production of nutritious food. Each individual country does not have the requisite natural resources, especially land and water, to produce all it needs. To this end, the Government eagerly embraced CARICOM’s 25×25 vision, which challenges Member States to reduce extra-regional agri-food imports by 25% by 2025.
Since the pronouncement of the 25×25 vision, Barbados signed Cooperation Agreements with two of its regional neighbours, Guyana and Suriname, in July 2022. The St. Barnabas Accord with Guyana encompasses several areas of agricultural cooperation including crop production, animal husbandry, fisheries and trade facilitation.
The Formation Agreement for the Strategic Dialogue and Cooperation Platform with Suriname will facilitate partnerships in similar areas. Under both Agreements, the possibility also exists for Barbadian farmers to travel to these countries to work agricultural lands provided by the respective Governments.
The Government acknowledges the fact that comprehensive agricultural policy also includes legislative and other supportive mechanisms. To this end, I am proud to report that in August 2022, Parliament passed the new and improved Protection of Agricultural Products Act. This long awaited piece of legislation will provide local farmers with the necessary recourse to acts of praedial larceny against them, while at the same time require them to take some measure of responsibility in averting such occurrences.
On this World Food Day, I extend sincere thanks to all farmers, institutional partners including FAO and employees of the Ministry for their commitment to advancing agriculture in Barbados. Despite the unprecedented, exogenous shocks that have caused setbacks, I am satisfied that the implemented programmes, the adoption of resilient, sustainable agricultural practices, along with the tireless efforts of all interest groups will bear much fruit.
As Minister of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Security, I assure you that I remain resolutely committed to the task given to me four years ago. May God bless all of you. (Minister of Minister of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Security, Indar Weir via BGIS)