Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. (FP)

A working group will soon complete discussions to settle on a single price for the water being used in agriculture in the country.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley shared this news today as she addressed the Annual General Assembly of the Barbados Agricultural Society, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Ms. Mottley pointed out that some persons were paying very little under the limited facilities offered by the Barbados Agricultural Management Company, while others were spending the equivalent of commercial rates, which was impossible to sustain.

“I’m happy to report to you that we have a working group, led by Dr. Clyde Mascoll, who will be concluding the consultations necessary for us to, once and for all, settle a single price for water for agriculture in this country, for the benefit of everybody.

“You cannot have a sustainable agricultural industry without affordable, reliable access to water.  And to that extent, therefore, I applaud the Minister [of Agriculture], the Chief Agricultural Officer and the Ministry for engaging with Dr. Mascoll and the Barbados Water Authority, to see what can be a national solution to this very unfortunate set of circumstances which…has been going on for decades,” she told the hybrid meeting.

The Prime Minister stressed, however, that those who used the commodity must be fair to Government and pay for what they used.  

She continued: “To that extent therefore, I believe that the Ministry of Agriculture is also going to be utilising technology in order to…ensure that there can be a pre-paid capacity that meets the cash flow of farmers, that will make life good for you and good for those who are selling the water.”

During her 40-minute address, Ms. Mottley insisted that the plantation model for agriculture, as traditionally structured in this part of the world, could not drive the sector further, especially since labour costs were high.  

She contended that there must be a commitment to the appropriate use of technology to give farmers an opportunity to be competitive, so they could survive in the sector.

“… We’ve told them (the Ministry of Agriculture) to come…with respect to new items of technology that are not traditionally part of the agricultural landscape in this country. We refer, in particular, to matters pertaining to drones to ensure that not only can we identify pests and diseases in our plants, we will be able to deal with praedial larceny more effectively – to the enforcement and surveillance necessary….

“[In addition], assessment of when disaster takes place on a rapid basis, so that we are in a position to make policy decisions quickly as to who needs help, when, where, how….  Access to technology is absolutely critical to being able to move this sector to the next level,” she emphasised.

Ms. Mottley explained that the technology would include GIS mapping to determine whether crops were to their optimal ripeness in the fields; the use of robotics and unmanned vehicles to plough, apply pesticides and harvest crops. She noted that there was need for an innovation lab with 3D agriculture printing.

“Without the infusion of technology in agriculture at this point in time, on an island that has limited population, and in circumstances where our labour costs are already high, we are shooting ourselves in the foot,” she surmised.

The Prime Minister noted that most of the players in the sector did not have a lot of capital and said the Agricultural Development Fund would have to be more effectively utilised and replenished, as required.

She stated that it was necessary to have a storage facility which would allow the country to maintain at least three months of food supply, including critical ground provisions.

Continuous training, Ms. Mottley said, was important for the farming community, and indicated that the National Transformation Initiative, TVET Council, the Barbados Vocational Training Board and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology would ensure persons were appropriately trained.

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