|Dr. David Estwick, Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management. (FP)
A senior government official strongly believes that if Barbados is to effectively navigate the challenges of the current global recession, then the local agricultural sector is its most viable option.
Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, made this point following a tour of the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre Inc. at Vaucluse, St. Thomas, on Monday.
The tour was part of activities to mark World Food Day 2011, which was observed on Sunday, October 16.
Dr. Estwick said research had illustrated the benefits of a strong agricultural sector to any developing economy, once linkages with other key sectors such as tourism and manufacturing are effectively implemented.
"The reality is that we have not developed the linkages from agriculture to any of the other significant sectors in Barbados. So those linkages with tourism, health, the environment and manufacturing are critical [but] we have not evolved these so that we can develop an agricultural sector that can stand on its own feet and be able to contribute significantly to the country," he summerised.
Dr. Estwick estimated that local agriculture contributed about three to four per cent to the economy annually and he would like to see those figures increase to around 10 to 15 per cent.
"What that would do in a recessionary period is it would help to reduce your balance of payments risks because you don’t have to import as much and, second, it would allow Barbados to have some protection or mitigation against that external shock. ????So, I am going to do everything that I can do with the legislative framework, regulations and policy framework… so we can put these systems in place to drive the agricultural sector in Barbados," he added.
The Agriculture Minister also contended that for too long Barbados and other developing nations have allowed international agencies to dictate the direction of local economies without regard for the agriculture sector.
"So we are being told that our comparative advantage is sea and sand or in international business. We have followed that model. Worldwide wherever that model has been followed, the recession has shown up that it has failed because they have always had to turn to agriculture to get out of the recession and be able to take care of their own domestic [concerns]," Dr. Estwick maintained.
He suggested that the way forward would be to ensure that the agricultural sectors of such economies are given the necessary resources to carry out their mandates and enhance their contribution to the country’s development.