Minister of Agriculture, Haynesley Benn (standing), as he addressed CARDI’s open day, yesterday at the Ministry’s Graeme Hall Field Station. ??Also at the head table are President of the National Union of Farmers, Julian Dottin (right of Minister), Chief Extension Officer at the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation, Euklyn Worrell and missing from the photo is CARDI Representative, Dr. Cyril Roberts.

The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) has been lauded for its contribution to agriculture and has been urged to step up its efforts to provide wholesome food, while helping the country to achieve food sovereignty.

This call has come from Minister of Agriculture, Senator Haynesley Benn. He was delivering the feature address yesterday at the organisation’s open day at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Graeme Hall Field Station.??

While noting that he had "high regard and deep respect" for CARDI’s work over the years in developing agriculture, the Minister, who recently returned from the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s World Food Summit in Rome, Italy, emphasised the need for local food sovereignty.

"The farming community must be in the vanguard of this charge to help this nation to achieve food security.?? As a matter of fact, we, in this Ministry have adopted a decree called food sovereignty.?? We have moved past food security…?? We want to focus on domestic production to satisfy our local needs and when we are satisfied that we can feed ourselves, we can boast about food sovereignty," Minister Benn said.??

He called on CARDI to focus on increasing the food production of farmers and the identification of fruits and vegetables that could be grown as cash crops.?? "Food security can be achieved by importing the foods that you want and once there is adequate food on the table, whether it comes from local or overseas [producers], you are secure… But food sovereignty is about a country seeking to produce the kind of food that can make a country self-sufficient and Barbados is far from being self-sufficient," he opined.

Outlining that Barbados imports close to 74 per cent of its food, comprising mostly processed foods, Senator Benn revealed that the country could claim to be self-sufficient in poultry, and egg production, as well as in some areas of vegetable production, but the same cannot be stated for beef or lamb supplies.??

He, however, expressed gratitude to local farmers for responding to the Ministry’s call for increased food production and noted that more cassava, sweet potato, yams and herb crops had been produced. The Minister also pledged his Ministry’s support for farmers, not only through technical guidance, but in the acceleration of the rebate and incentive programme of the Ministry.

"We have sought to upgrade the incentives programme, but … we must now look at up-front incentives.?? Many times, farmers spend monies that they had to borrow and then wait for a while to get back some funds through the incentives programme," Mr. Benn asserted.

In Barbados, CARDI leads the way in research and development in a number of commodities, including hot peppers, cassava and sweet potatoes, with a view to introducing high yielding crops and developing control measures against viral infection. ????CARDI Barbados is also involved in livestock research and development, including the evaluation of local feed resources, including their characterisation and evaluation and the development of feeding systems.?? In collaboration with the University of the West Indies and the Government, the unit is also mapping the genetic characteristics of the Barbados Blackbelly sheep. ??

CARDI’S annual open day events are being held at country representative offices ??around the region, over the period December 2009??- January 2010 and feature new technologies developed or adapted by CARDI to boost agricultural production.

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