A pilot project is under way which seeks to forge a closer working relationship between farmers and the retail sector.
This was revealed by Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, who said the new venture was built around the concept of the State Trading Enterprise which was announced in the Budgetary and Financial Statement of 2009.
During a recent interview, he added that the initiative was an attempt by the Ministry of Agriculture to develop a more effective link between the supply aspect of farm production and the demand for goods.
"We are starting with Trimart.?? They are in a relationship with the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC), operating a couple of farms and they are producing [crops] directly for Trimart to purchase, so that the farmer can benefit.
"We create the infrastructure and the institutional framework and the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to manage it. We, therefore, know what is being produced every single month, how much is being produced, when it is going to be harvested,?? so Trimart can now plan when they will use that product and so on," Dr. Estwick pointed out.
The Agriculture Minister added that the long-term objective was to include more supermarkets and farmers in the programme as well as other departments and business entities.
"Gradually I would want to get the hotels involved, the schools, maybe the Ministry of Education, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital because they purchase a lot of fruits and vegetables… in Barbados. I want to get some of them to come on board so we can drive the production side to satisfy their demand but it must be done within an ICT platform, so you can manage the demand and supply," Dr. Estwick said.
He also revealed that his Ministry was working in conjunction with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to create an ICT database for the local agricultural sector.
"So, at any point in time, I should know how many tonnes of carrots are being produced or planted or when they are being harvested. I should also know this for pumpkins and watermelons or lamb or pork so, in this way you can deal with gluts or when major importers say they don’t have supplies, you can manage that properly," the Agriculture Minister explained.