Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir, is “very excited” about the prospects which the Brokopondo Agreement with Suriname holds for Barbados.
He expressed this sentiment today during talks with a Surinamese delegation, led by Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Rabindre Parmessar, at his office at Graeme Hall, Christ Church.
Noting that this sector really needs the energy in order to be as transformational as it is supposed to be, Minister Weir said this also came against the backdrop that Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley was targeting agriculture as the one sector that should contribute growth to the economy.
While acknowledging that Barbados was heavily dependent on tourism, he noted that a country could be placed in a very vulnerable position given the many challenges that may be encountered, including diseases like the novel coronavirus.
Stressing that this was why agriculture was so important now, he said: “We are targeting this Brokopondo Agreement solely because we recognize the importance of having agriculture as one of the leading sectors.”
The Minister also expressed his satisfaction with Suriname’s negotiations for the movement of goods between the two countries, stating that the partnership towards developing the Blackbelly Sheep population with Suriname was welcomed.
Stressing that Barbados wanted to augment this animal’s reproduction by some 1,000,000, he said there was also the value chain aspect of it.
“You can use the meat in the culinary industry, but then what you do after that is critical to the value that we can get from the Blackbelly Sheep. So, what we are going to do is continue the relationship with The University of the West Indies and the private developers in Barbados to have the skins to get leather from the Blackbelly Sheep.
“This is why Suriname is so important because you have the capacity. We don’t have the scale currently, but you can give it to us under the Brokopondo Agreement …. We are talking about a tremendous opportunity here, if between Suriname and Barbados we can build this industry,” Minister Weir said.
Mr. Parmessar, in his response, expressed gratitude to both his President Desiré Bouterse and Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, saying: “I thank both leaders for their spirit and vision that we must be an example within the Caribbean Community, setting up these activities and enterprises for our people. I am happy that we have an agenda whereby we can meet the captains of the business industries, where our delegation of the business community can have one-to-one contact with them.”
The Surinamese Minister, who, along with his delegation, will be at Barbados’ premier agricultural event, Agrofest, in Queen’s Park this evening, said: “I thank you for the opportunity and the invitation to be able to present a little glimpse of our products here and for facilitating us. It is in line with what our leaders want, that we have more active relationships with each other.”
Discussion also centred around Barbadian farmers taking up opportunities in Suriname; enhancing this island’s sanitary and phytosanitary measures; and boosting fish farming in Barbados.
The Brokopondo Programme, under its agricultural component, has the potential to strengthen regional cooperation, especially in the area of food security.
It has three components, namely trading in agricultural produce; utilization of lands in Suriname for farming by Barbadians and providing scientific assistance/collaboration.
Barbados and Suriname established diplomatic relations in March 1978.