Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Haynesley Benn
Agriculture Minister, Senator Haynesley Benn, has intimated that an “all hands on deck” approach was necessary if Barbados was to achieve food sovereignty – “which speaks to our ability, not only to feed ourselves, but to produce the food with which to do so.
“We can do it and we will do it, with the assistance of various stakeholders,” he said, during an address prior to the start of a Food Crop Research Field Day, organised by the Ministry’s Central Agronomic Research Station at its Graeme Hall, Christ Church headquarters.
Minister Benn told those in attendance that there were idle lands across the island, which were “waiting for the stroke of a pen to see them transferred into commercial and residential usage.”
Noting that that he was prepared to take his time before sanctioning or vetoing such prospects, he admitted that his Ministry was keen to see some of those lands transformed to provide a viable livelihood for farmers.
In regard to Barbados achieving food sovereignty, the Minister outlined a proverbial ‘things-to-do’ list for all Barbadians, beginning with members of the farming community.
In addition to becoming more organised, he urged them to start to see themselves as business persons, and as a consequence, he opined, others would also start to view them in that light. He also impressed upon them the need to officially register with the Ministry.
Senator Benn implored suppliers of farming inputs, especially seeds, to provide farmers with high quality products at a good price, charging that much better could be done in this regard. Similarly, he challenged feed producers to continue to maintain the high quality of their feed, while streamlining costs.
Alluding to the perennial problem of praedial larceny, Minister Benn appealed to members of the Royal Barbados Police Force to join with farmers in protecting their livelihood, through the provision of more patrols.
“It is pointless for me to urge farmers to produce and yet they cannot reap what they sow,” he underlined.
On this score, he also appealed to supermarkets and hoteliers to join in the fight against crop theft by ensuring that persons who came to their back doors purporting to be farmers were bona fide, by insisting on proof of purchase or production of crops. He also highlighted the need for members of the public to become more vigilant in their purchasing.
On Government’s part, the agricultural head made a call for an improvement in the existing incentive programme, especially with regard to reducing the waiting period between application and disbursement.
Over 100 participants, including farmers, representatives of farming institutions and various government departments participated in the field day, which allowed them to observe some five field trials being conducted by the department. They saw the production of thyme under greenhouse conditions; the yield and performance of seven new cultivars of tomato; the yield and growth of three varieties of parsley; the effect of locally available manures on the growth and yield of cabbage; and a collection of 40 varieties of sweet potato.