Tractor Operator at the BADMC, David Murrell, giving a demonstration on one of the tractors at the BADMC at fairy Valley, Christ Church. (A.Gaskin/BGIS)

Small and medium-sized farmers who have had difficulties in getting their lands ploughed and cultivated for planting will now have access to tractor services through the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC).

This morning the Corporation launched its new Tractor Cultivation Scheme at its headquarters in Fairy Valley, Christ Church and it is a programme which Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, believes could significantly boost local food production.

He explained that while large farms could afford to purchase tractors and the requisite agricultural equipment, many small farmers were often at a disadvantage due to a lack of funds and because it was not economically feasible for private tractor operators to cultivate small or medium-sized plots.

According to Dr. Estwick, this situation was a challenge to local agricultural production and as such, the project was developed to provide support for small and medium scale farmers.

"The majority of farming in Barbados is small and medium-sized…If they don’t have the capacity to prepare their lands, then that is a major constraint to domestic food production. The only way to solve that problem is for the state to become involved and provide the type of tractor cultivation services, so we can have their lands prepared at nominal charges," he said.

Dr. Estwick indicated that the new scheme would be a joint venture arrangement with private tractor operators.

"We have a number of private operators who will twin with us. I have also spoken with the Barbados Agricultural Management Company Ltd. (BAMC) and we are working out the down time for their tractors. We are putting an MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] in place, so when the BAMC tractors are not in operation, they would become available for usage within our scheme… We are confident that the combination of the tractors that we have, the private sector ones and the BAMC, should be enough to start the process off," he stated.

He said the BADMC had purchased two tractors for the scheme and would be seeking to acquire another two for their complement.

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, and Tractor Operator at the BADMC, David Murrell, test driving one of the tractors at today’s launch at Fairy valley.?? (A.Gaskin/BGIS)??

The Agriculture Minister also encouraged farmers to take advantage of his Ministry’s new prepaid incentives programme, where they could access critical agricultural services such as tractor cultivation without having to pay the full cost up front.

"We are very confident that once we can provide the tractor cultivation services to small and medium-sized farmers as well as make sure that they can have discounts with regard to their farming equipment, materials and supplies, that this would go a very, very long way in enhancing domestic production," Dr. Estwick said.

The new service is expected to cost some BDS $3 million and research has indicated it could boost local food crop production by 4.6 million pounds, at a value of BDS $9.2 million. ??

BADMC Chief Executive Officer, Glendene Bartlett, pointed out that the aim of the new scheme was not to compete with private operators but to complement the service they offered to farmers.

"The regular rates will be charged; the same as the private operators because we are not competing with them but complementing them. So, we are charging the same rates that they are charging," she said.


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