Dr. Estwick: Food Import Bill Too High

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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick??

A senior government official is concerned about Barbados’s high food import bill, stressing that every effort will be made to boost local agricultural production.??

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, made this point yesterday following a tour of Newcastle, St. John with officials from his ministry and the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC).

The aim of the tour was to address some of the chronic problems which have been affecting farmers in the area, including water shortages.

"We have to do something quite urgently to enhance the production of agricultural products in the country. The problem in Barbados is not the demand for agricultural produce whether it is crop or non-crop. The problem is the supply side and the evidence of that would be the 981 million dollars in food that we import every year," Dr. Estwick said.

Citing the example of onions, he noted that Barbados does not produce as much as 20 per cent of the overall annual consumption of the vegetable.

Dr. Estwick therefore, suggested that the Ministry of Agriculture does not only have to provide the infrastructure for farmers to boost their production but work with the educational sector to encourage more young Barbadians to get involved in agriculture.

"We have to pull more young persons into the whole business of production and to be able to demythologise it and to take out of it [this perception] of a hoe and fork mentality. They must see that there are a lot of persons who make a quality living out of agriculture," he remarked.

The Agriculture Minister also revealed that he has been exploring the feasibility of restructuring his Ministry to better serve the needs of its clients.

"We have been having some internal meetings to look at the possibility of how we can restructure the Ministry so that it concentrates on a particular type of responsibility, that is, policy and policy framework, looking at regulations and monitoring capabilities. [We would] separate out of those responsibilities the other type of technical, production and research elements which should not really be in a Ministry per se… so we are going to be looking very quickly at how we can get those mechanisms put in place to enhance the production of the agriculture sector," Dr. Estwick pointed out.??

askeete@barbados.gov.bb

Author: Andr?? Skeete
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