Although the island’s agricultural sector grew by 16 per cent between January and June of this year, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir, believes there are still a number of changes that have to be made.
He pointed this out on Sunday on Getting Down To Brass Tacks on VOB 92.9, during a discussion on agriculture, and where it is poised to go in the future.
Explaining the growth in agriculture, Minister Weir said: “This is because of the programmes that we have put in place to increase production of all of those crops that we have grown in the past and can grow very well. There are things like beets, hot peppers, cabbage and those sort of crops that we have fallen back on, we are growing now and growing better.
The thing is that there are a number of things that we need to fix, and truthfully, we are working on them, but it is not going to be an overnight exercise.
“For example, you know that climate change has impacted agriculture in a significant way. So, many of the farmers would experience very severe drought conditions that are fairly prolonged. And the Government has agreed, at the Cabinet level, to put a series of reservoirs in place so that farmers can have continuous access to water right across the major farming districts. Places like River in St. Philip … Three Houses Plantation … and, at the Spring Hall Land Lease Project.”
Pointing out that many farmers had planted based on what market access they had, Minister Weir reminded Barbadians that the Farmers’ Empowerment Enfranchisement Drive (FEED) had been launched in 2019 to specifically address challenges related to the island’s food import bill and to ensure food security.
Stating it was important that Barbados must be able to feed its population, Mr. Weir added that post-World War II, Barbados grew sweet potato, which it was good at doing, and determined that it would continue to do so. “I think we produce more than enough sweet potato for domestic consumption but I agree that we have to go further.
“And, that is why the BADMC is being asked to look at its innovation unit to be able to produce things out of sweet potato like porridges, and of course put us in a position where we can then do packaged things like fish cake batter, etcetera. You already know they are doing the cassava flour and then they will be moving to yam as well.”
He noted too that Wakefield Plantation in St. John, which is over 200 acres of land, is under complete cultivation through the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) and that plantation would also be providing a nursery where farmers can get access to clean planting material for sweet potatoes. Wakefield is also expected to have a nursery for sugar cane production.