|Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick (FP)|
Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, has cautioned Barbadians, particularly farmers, against repeated calls for government to ban the importation of produce to protect its agricultural sector.
Speaking to the media recently at his office at Graeme Hall, Christ Church, he said that while government understood the concerns of the farming community, in a world of trade liberalisation where Barbados was signatory to the rules of the World Trade Organisation, Cabinet could not unilaterally decide to use commercial and licensing protectionist policies.
"It is against the law. We can’t stop any Barbadian from applying for a licence to import anything unless the state establishes a state trading enterprise which would be set [up] by the Cabinet to have sole importer responsibility for that item. We have done this with respect to poultry and onions," he explained.
In addition, Dr. Estwick pointed out that if Barbados sought to halt imports from its neighbours, this could have serious implications for its financial earning capacity.
"If you were to do this with regard to many other products, do you not believe Jamaica would do the same thing or St. Lucia or Guyana? We export about 60 to 65 per cent of our domestic export within the OECS alone. If they were to do the same thing to Barbados, who would be hurt?" he asked journalists.
Dr. Estwick reiterated that while government understood the challenges of small farmers, the national perspective had to be taken into consideration when looking at such issues, particularly as they were set within a framework of international and regional rules of trade.