Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer (Livestock), Charleston Lucas (FP)

A senior agricultural official is encouraging more farmers to join or establish a cooperative because the long-term benefits could be significant.

Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer (Livestock) and Chairman of the World Food Day Organising Committee, Charleston Lucas, suggested that in light of the challenging economic times, agricultural cooperatives were a viable option in terms of saving money and farmers stood a better chance of finding a guaranteed market for their produce.

"The cost of production affects small farmers’ profits significantly. So, if we can get them to come together, they could take advantage of economies of scale, source their inputs in bulk and achieve a sizeable reduction in the price of specific items. ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

"In terms of marketing produce, together farmers could develop contractual arrangements with supermarkets or other purchasing businesses whereby they can be assured of getting their produce sold," he pointed out.

For consumers, the Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer said such associations would ensure that there was consistency of supply while it would also aid in the development of a proper grading and standards system for agricultural produce.

Mr. Lucas suggested that in joining a cooperative, small farmers would have a stronger voice when negotiating with input suppliers and buyers. Cooperatives could also take advantage of several incentives available from the Ministry of Agriculture.

"As a cooperative, farmers can get as high as 75 per cent off the cost of setting up an approved irrigation system. There are also rebates for packaging, sorting, grading, and post-harvest facilities that farmers can access from the Ministry," he said.

Mr. Lucas was speaking as Barbados prepares to join the rest of the world in observing World Food Day on Tuesday, October 16 – an annual event which seeks to raise awareness and understanding of ways to end hunger.

The theme for 2012 is Agricultural Co-operatives: Key to Feeding the World, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations this year’s theme was chosen to highlight the critical "role of co-operatives in improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger."


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