Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick is cautioning Barbadians that their continuing taste for foreign products will have a long term effect on the island’s economy.
Speaking during an interview with officials from the Ministry’s Agricultural Information Services Unit, he expressed the view that some imported goods could be produced here, and he called on the business sector to explore other ways of using more local goods and services.
According to him, the penchant for foreign goods was contributing to the island’s high food import bill, which now stands at some $900 million, and the spending of valuable foreign exchange.
"Every time government has to pay an import bill with foreign exchange for items that… can be produced in Barbados, it means that if government is not producing that quantity of foreign exchange, it has to borrow. If government has to borrow that foreign exchange, then it has an impact on the fiscal deficit of the country," he explained.
Dr. Estwick pointed out that a rise in the fiscal deficit could pose serious problems for the local economy and, by extension, consumers who could be hit hard in their pockets.
"When the fiscal deficit goes up… there are only two ways to close it…government has to raise revenue… or cut back expenditure… [One of] the ways government has to raise revenue will be to raise taxes…[This] means the foods that you purchase will be more expensive, the electricity, water and telephone bills we pay and all the other services we purchase?? would be increased… All of this is linked to the fact that we are importing excessively and creating a problem for the country in relation to its debt service profile," Dr. Estwick pointed out.
The Agriculture Minister not only placed the responsibility of reducing food imports on the business sector but encouraged all Barbadians to play their part in contributing to this country’s efforts at food security and sustainability.
"If all of us can play our role with regard to helping [the country] decrease the importation of food, especially items that we can produce in Barbados, then I think we would be on the right path of maintaining Barbados’ fiscal stability and the quality of life we have in the country," he said.
Dr. Estwick assured that his Ministry would do all it could to facilitate the use of more local produce, and seek to increase agricultural production, which he believes could go a long way in reducing this country’s high food import bill.??