Barbados and other Caribbean countries have not been utilising renewable energy in agriculture as effectively as the rest of the world.

Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Lennox Chandler, made this assertion today at the Divi Southwinds Beach Resort during the launch of Agrofest 2013. The event will get under way next month under the theme: Renewable Energy – Leading the Charge into the Future.

Mr. Chandler explained that the United States, Asia and Europe were using solar, wind and geothermal energies and were exploring the use of ocean thermal energy within their agricultural sectors as well as in the wider society. He charged that it took a crisis – namely the oil crisis – to "galvanise" Barbadians into action.

"We have now reached the point where we are being forced to embrace the use of renewable energies, on account of soaring feed and food prices, high food production costs and an extremely high food import bill…which is in excess of $600 million and climbing.

"The use of renewable energy can also impact positively on the capacity of the sector to earn foreign exchange regionally and internationally since our products could be more competitively priced," the Acting Permanent Secretary said.

He referred to a number of incentives that the Ministry had instituted to encourage those in the sector to use renewable energy. These included a rebate of 30 per cent of the cost of design and construction of biogas digesters up to a maximum of $3,500 per holding in order to mitigate the effect of livestock production on Barbados’ ground water supply, and to promote a mechanism for recycling wastewater, gas and organic slurry. This incentive has been in place since August 2001.

In addition, he said that effective August 2011, there was a rebate of up to $5,000 for those producers within the livestock industry to retrofit their livestock housing with an electrical system that utilises solar energy.

Mr. Chandler said the Ministry would persist with its efforts to encourage the use of renewable energy, adding that it would also continue to explore other policies and ways in which it could assist and "incentivise" players within the sector.????

The Agrofest mascot at the 2013 launch at Divi Southwinds. (A.Miller/BGIS)

He was of the view that the economy could flourish through the development of a vibrant agricultural industry which, in turn, could generate wealth and employment for Barbadians.

The Acting Permanent Secretary told those at the launch that Agrofest – now in its ninth year – served as a tool to turn the public’s attention to the agricultural sector. He said that was the motive behind the incorporation of activities such as petting zoos, an educational area, a dairy and beef show and a farmers market.??

The event is also used to showcase the importance of the sector and educate the public about the role and work of all of the its stakeholders.

"Agrofest has now become an integral part of the local events calendar. For anyone who has observed or participated in the event it would have been evident that it attracts both the young and more mature citizens. It is our hope that it will serve as a stimulus to produce our future farmers and agro-processors," Mr. Chandler said.

Agrofest takes place from February 22-24 in Queen’s Park, The City.


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