|Chief Agricultural Officer Barton Clarke, (right) in discussion with officials of the Inter American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture at a seminar on National Accountability at Chelsea House.??(C. Pitt/BGIS)??|
If the agricultural sector is to surmount existing challenges, then collaboration and cooperation is needed from all concerned.
This was underscored by Chief Agricultural Officer (CAO) Barton Clarke, as he delivered remarks today at a National Accountability seminar sponsored by the Inter-American Institute on Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) at Chelsea House.
He said: "… there is a suggestion that one of the planks we can remodel or reshape our national economy is to place increasing emphasis on agriculture. But in order to do so we really need the assistance of the regional and international agencies. We understand that economic circumstances impact upon you equally as they impact upon us and we understand that you are not donor agencies, but we recognise that you have considerable technical talent which can be brought to bear in assisting us in changing direction, in improving efficiency and being far more globally competitive.
"…We need each other because we are in this boat together. Not only do we need each other within the narrow confines of the Barbadian space, we need each other as it relates to the issue of meeting the challenge of satisfying the demands for food and fibre of the Caribbean."
Noting that although his Ministry provided certain incentives and technical resources, Mr. Clarke maintained that it, however, could not do so alone but needed the input of IICA, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the University of The West Indies, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute and others to provide services to the farming community.
In terms of increasing food production and enhancing the ability of the nation to feed itself, he said the agricultural sector would advance in a context guided by what consumers needed. Moreover, he stressed that focus should also be placed on meeting the millennium development goals, the rising food prices, the challenges of feeding the nation, efforts to tackle chronic non-communicable diseases, and of creating a better quality of life for all citizens.
"…So that our emphasis must be on how we provide food in those forms which the consumers prefer it. Because I don’t know that we will be able to roll back the clock and deal with the matters which much of the imported/ processed foods afford us," the CAO contended.
According to IICA’s 2010 report Promoting Competitive and Sustainable Agriculture in Barbados, the agricultural sector recorded growth last year and accounted for 4.7 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (1.3 per cent due to sugar and 3.4 per cent due to non-sugar agriculture). The report also pointed to a seven per cent increase in root crop production and an 81 per cent increase in culinary herb production.