Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, is confident that the agriculture sector will be transformed, through initiatives under the Barbados Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation’s (BADMC) Crop Value Chain Services.
The initiatives, launched at BADMC’s Fairy Valley Plantation, Christ Church headquarters, on Wednesday, were designed to improve the relationship between the farmers and other sectors, such as tourism; as well as reduce issues relating to demand and supply.
One is an Agricultural Commodities Trading Platform, the first of its kind in Barbados. A critical part of this internet-based buyers/sellers’ forum is to make people aware of the produce available from local farmers.
“[It] allows any farmer in this country, once he is registered with the Ministry of Agriculture to be able to uplink what he has to sell directly in real time, and offer that particular item for sale directly to any buyer within the system, or regionally and extra-regionally. That is transformative,” Dr. Estwick pointed out.
He added that the Agricultural Commodities Trading Platform would also provide the avenue for potential buyers, for example, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and manufacturers, to post requests for both agricultural produce and fish.
The platform is in the testing phase, and the Minister said they are working to iron out a technical problem.
“It has been working reasonably well, but we’ve got one hiccup, and the hiccup is that the buyer-seller relationship via emails is a little slower than we would like…. Our time frame really is that if you put on the platform that ‘I have 10,000 pounds of potatoes’… you should be able to have a response to that in a rather quick time,” Dr. Estwick explained.
The BADMC has also established a Pack House, which is geared towards ensuring the produce is of high quality and that farmers can sustain the market demand.
Acknowledging that manufacturers have continuously raised concern about the quality of local produce, Dr. Estwick is optimistic that this could be reversed.
“I am hoping that after the next month or so when we have fully operationalised our packing facility and have put in place the sort of system to affect quality control in and quality control out, that issue would become an issue of the past,” he stated.
The Minister also announced that a market information system would be implemented. This will allow Ministry officials to interact directly with farmers, consumers, and customs officials, in terms of the importation of food items.
“The importance of the market information system, therefore, at any point in time, would be to carry in real time, what are the various prices of agricultural commodities at any particular market,” Dr. Estwick explained.
He added that the information system would have an archive feature, which according to him, would not only allow people to make pricing comparisons, but also aid in policy-making decisions related to the agricultural sector.