|Acting Chief Agricultural Officer, Ralph Farnum (FP)|
A senior agricultural official believes that the future of the sector lies in the development of an integrated approach which involves the health and nutrition, science and technology and industry and business sectors, among other areas.
Acting Chief Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Ralph Farnum, said Barbadians should see agriculture as more than the provision of food, but as a platform for the stimulation and economic development of the country.
Speaking during a recent interview, he suggested that this would involve the development of niche markets for secondary and tertiary agricultural products and the strengthening of agro industrial linkages.
"There are a lot of aspects that spin off from agriculture. There is the agro processing…We have a lot of fruits and vegetables and other products which we should be able to utilise as we go forward. We also have value added products. These are items that can be used in our local supermarkets but we need to generate that linkage so that our farming community can have an outlet. This would contribute to the sustainability of the industry because if our farmers cannot survive and adequately provide for their families, then we have a problem," he noted.
Outlining the Ministry of Agriculture’s vision for moving forward, Mr. Farnum said officials were exploring the development of low-cost technology to support and assist the farming community as they sought to deal with the spiraling costs of agricultural inputs.
This, he pointed out, would also be part of an effort to increase local productivity.
The senior official also spoke about some of the research projects the Ministry was undertaking, particularly moving towards the development of a cassava industry.
"We are working on cassava…it’s a product we have been focusing on in terms of its use to make flours and other products which would assist in the development of a cassava industry. We are looking at its use also in the development of animal feeds. The cost of animal feed is one of the greatest expenses in agriculture. I’m told that it constitutes some 70 per cent of the cost of production for animal rearing because of the rise in prices of grains and soy," he explained.
Mr. Farnum said that the Ministry would continue to garner feedback from the farming community, agriculturalists and other related stakeholders as they worked to develop research areas to assist the sector.
In addition, he said the Ministry would make every effort to remove those critical constraints which would impede the development of the agricultural sector.