Minister of Agriculture, Sen. Haynesley Benn (FP)????

Local farmers have been urged to tap organic farming, inarguably one of the agricultural sector’s largest growth areas worldwide, with global??market projections expected to reach some US $46 billion by next year.

This advice has come from Minister of Agriculture, Senator Haynesley Benn, who told a seminar entitled: ???Green Living: Organic Farming, Foods and Lifestyles’ that while?? organic agriculture?? in Barbados was still in its infancy, it had "great potential to be a significant economic earner for Barbados."

The seminar, organised by the Ministry’s Food Crops Research Department, in collaboration with the Foundations for Living Trust, seeks to promote healthy living, increase organic agriculture, and demonstrate how the average person could produce and prepare healthy food.

In addressing the link between organic farming and the Ministry’s strategic goals of food security, the promotion of agricultural health and safety and sustainable agricultural development, Minister Benn told organic farmers present:?? "You have chosen a very important field of endeavour, namely agriculture, and organic food production. These vital elements will help to maintain a healthy nation in spite of the many obstacles and economic challenges which we face."

He told his audience, that as the island’s food import and agro-chemical bills continued to rise, there was "a notable increase in non-communicable diseases that are lifestyle oriented." Lifestyle, he stressed, connotes a combination of a person’s eating habits, daily routine [including levels of exercise and activity], quantity and quality of foods consumed, and the level of exposure to certain chemicals within the environment.

Citing a 2007 study of Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, which suggested that organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, without increasing the agricultural land base, Senator Benn maintained:?? "If this study is accurate, then there are potentially great advantages towards organic food production and consumption of such foods…"

Noting that the Caribbean, within the last 10 years, had slowly embraced organic agriculture, Senator Benn said that in the case of Barbados, some 16 organic farmers were registered in 2004, and 35 acres of land was under cultivation. In 2008, the number of registrants rose to 65, 15 of whom were active, and land production rose to approximately 150 acres. This year, due to the loss of two large farms, the land area reportedly fell to approximately 60 acres.

While there is a demand for organic products within most major supermarkets, the Minister identified the lack of consistent contracted supply, due to large quantities demanded, as a major limitation. In terms of export potential, he noted that this was currently untapped, because of a lack of farm certification.

"Without certification from a recognised certifying body, local organic produce would not be accepted as organic on the international market. The National Organic Code of Practice has been established but a certification mechanism has not yet been developed. This will have to be addressed if we are to reap any benefits in this area on the export market level," he concluded.

Senator Benn underscored the need for a proper course to be charted for organic farming via a national development plan.

Organic farming is an agro-ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity, without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilisers.

The global market for organic products is said to have reached a value of US $38.6 billion in 2006, with the vast majority of products being consumed in North America and Europe.

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