A government minister is of the view that the agricultural sector can be the major impetus in helping Barbados’ economy to survive the current global financial crisis.
Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Industry and Small Business Development, Dr. David Estwick, made this assertion during his Ministry’s World Food Day Awards Ceremony and Lecture at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre last Friday.
He maintained that one of the ways in which the sector could be reinvigorated was through the creation of niche markets for local produce.
"We need to explore ways of developing our locally grown produce, especially our indigenous fruits such as cherries, guavas, tamarind and golden apples, to create a niche in the export market for these items, while at the same time, contributing to the reduction of our food import bill," the Minister of Agriculture said.
With regard to the food import bill, Dr. Estwick announced that there had been some success in efforts to increase food production.
According to him, while Barbados presently imports over 70 per cent of its food requirements, by the end of 2009, the food import bill had been reduced from $678 million in 2008 to $530.3 million.
Dr. Estwick also revealed that his Ministry was in the process of drafting and amending pertinent pieces of legislation which would give support to the fishing and farming sectors.
These include amendments to the Praedial Larceny Act, the Sustainable Agricultural Development Bill, Agricultural Protection Bill, Sea Food Quality Assurance Bill, Veterinary Drugs Control Bill and the Slaughter Houses (Hygiene) and Meat Inspection Bill.
"It is expected that the passing of these statutes will effect a more efficient functioning of the agricultural sector and enable Barbados to comply with international requirements," Dr. Estwick pointed out.
The ceremony also saw several stalwarts honoured for their contributions to the agricultural sector. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) awards were presented to farmer and agriculturalist, Christopher Ward, entrepreneur Leila Johnson and lecturer and former member of staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, Gerry Thomas.
Ministry of Agriculture Food, Fisheries and Industry (MAFFI) Awards were also presented to Lawrence Marshall for long and meritorious Service; MacDonald Stevenson for his contribution to the dairy industry; Lloyd Scott for long and dedicated service, and Jannis Greenidge for her contribution to farming and youth mentorship.
The Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation copped an award for its contribution to irrigation, while Hazel Roberts won for long and dedicated service.
St. Philip Primary took home first prize in the Schools Exhibition, with St. Martins/Mangrove Primary taking second place and Mount Tabor Primary School coming in firstname.lastname@example.org