Dr.??Chelston Brathwaite (left), in discussion??with David Estwick, Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, yesterday, at the??opening ceremony for the National Consultation on Agriculture. (A.Miller/BGIS)??????

A prominent agriculturalist has thrown out a challenge to all Barbadians to help this country reduce its high food import bill.

And, Chairman of the National Agricultural Commission, Dr. Chelston Brathwaite, believes that if each and every person played his or her part, this country could cut that bill by 10 per cent each year for the next five years.

Speaking during the closing session of the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Consultation on Agriculture at the Savannah Hotel yesterday, he said it should not be the responsibility of government alone to tackle the rising food import bill but rather, there must be a societal ???buy-in’ for this critical issue.

According to Central Bank figures, Barbados’ food import bill stood at $409 million in 2011.

Dr. Brathwaite suggested that Barbadians could no longer ???sit on the fence’ or ignore the issue but should ask themselves several pertinent questions if the agricultural sector was to move forward.

"What is your responsibility as an individual? What is your responsibility as a national? The process of change is not the exclusive responsibility of the Minister or the Ministry, it is a national responsibility.

"What will you do to increase local food production? What will you do to promote the consumption of local food and make the agricultural sector a pillar of the Barbadian economy? What are we going to do to make the change that the country deserves and that is necessary?" he queried.

Dr. Brathwaite also urged policymakers to put farmers at the forefront of any plans to boost the local economy.

"Is there a national award for the farmer who will contribute the most to food security in this nation? Do we uplift or hold our farmers up as important contributors to the nation? When last did a farmer get a national award? Is our agricultural sector important?" he queried.

The former Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture head stressed that Barbados could not afford to abandon its agricultural sector otherwise the country would pay a high price as well as future generations of Barbadians.


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