|Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn (left) presents Preseident of the Pig Farmers’??Association, Algernon Johnson, with a World Food Day Award. (A. Skeete/BGIS)|
A former agriculture minister and senior agriculture official have joined the chorus of Barbadians who are encouraging more small entrepreneurs and farmers to either join or establish a cooperative.??
Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn, made this call during yesterday’s World Food Day Cooperative Expo and Awards Ceremony in the St. George Parish Church car park.
The event was the culmination of a series of activities in observance of World Food Day, which is held annually to bring awareness to the issues of poverty and hunger. The day was being held under the theme??Agricultural Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World.
Senator Benn stressed that such associations could go a long way in helping to lower the cost of living for Barbadian consumers since if they bought in bulk, cooperatives would be able to save funds which they could pass on to customers.
"I am urging people in the business sector, particularly the small shopkeepers, …to think about getting together and purchasing in bulk and getting items at the wholesale price. They would be able to still make a dollar while offering a better price," he suggested.
Senator Benn also warned Barbadians that due to the volatility of the international food market, the price of feed was expected to rise shortly. He, therefore, called on farmers’ groups to work together and purchase their feed in bulk which could offset some of the costs for small farmers and producers.
The Commerce and Trade Minister also suggested that small manufacturers of condiments such as jams and jellies could join forces to take advantage of the opportunities available in the larger markets.
"Only a few weeks ago, I was talking to persons from overseas who were telling me that they would like to see Barbados export some of the wonderful jams and jellies and other items we make from local fruit. But the quantities are small and every time they approach an individual for a quantity of goods, that individual cannot meet the numbers required.
"I believe that collectively if those small entrepreneurs would come together as cooperatives, put them under one brand and sell them to overseas markets, they too could benefit while aiding the country in earning some foreign exchange," he said.
Senator Benn’s comments were echoed by Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Lennox Chandler, who was speaking on behalf of Minister Dr. David Estwick.
With the first four months of this year’s food import bill at BDS $170 million, he cited cooperatives as a viable model that could lead to increased local food production and food security for the population.
"Cooperatives serve to build a better world by advancing sustainable development and social integration. The cooperative gives empowerment to its members and can strengthen communities. Additionally, these organisations serve to promote food security and enhance opportunities for small agricultural producers.
Since they are better tuned into local needs, they are in a better position to serve as instruments of local growth," Mr. Chandler pointed out.
However, he told the audience that despite the Ministry of Agriculture’s best efforts to encourage more farmers to come together through government’s incentive programme, there were still only three agricultural cooperatives in the island.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary therefore stressed that this situation should be remedied as quickly as possible. "Surely, as we prepare for the emergence of yet another food crisis, our farmers need to come to the realisation of the many benefits to be achieved through membership in cooperatives, which can serve as a vital tool in the fight towards attaining food security," Mr. Chandler said.
During the ceremony, several awards were presented to those cooperatives and persons who have made an invaluable contribution to the agricultural sector.
These were the Barbados Agricultural Trading & Investment Cooperative Society Ltd (BATICS, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, NULL, NULL, 0); the Barbados Pig Farmers’ Cooperative Society Limited; the St. George Farmers’ Marketing Cooperative Society Limited; the Christ Church Girls School Savings Society Ltd.; the St. Silas Cooperative Thrift Society Ltd.; dairy farmer, Alfred Bovell; St. George Cooperative member, Joseph O’Neil and pig farmer, Clarence Thompson.