Chief Agricultural??Officer (Ag.), Ralph Farnum??(far left), Permanent Secretary,??Michael King??(centre) and Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick,??listen and take notes at yesterday’s town hall meeting at the Princess Margaret??Secondary School. (A.Miller/BGIS)??

Government is working to tackle this country’s high food import bill head on, whilst throwing its full support behind the local agricultural sector.

And, this will be done by ensuring that any produce which can be grown locally will not be imported into the island.

This assurance has come from Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, who said his Ministry was presently undertaking a study to determine which specific fruits and vegetables could be produced locally on a sustained basis.

He was speaking during yesterday’s town hall meeting on the agricultural sector at the Princess Margaret Secondary School, Six Roads, St. Philip.

"When we get to that stage when that information is determined and proven, rest assured and as long as I am Minister of Agriculture, I am going to Cabinet and those crops will not be imported into Barbados as long as we can produce them," Dr. Estwick said to rapturous applause.

He was speaking against the backdrop of an escalating food import bill for the island which, according to the Agricultural Planning Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, stood at US $326.89 million in 2011.

Dr. Estwick continued: "Where there is a production cycle and we have evidence that we can produce the majority, we will utilise the CARICOM model under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, I think it is Article 21, which makes it quite clear that… no produce can be imported into the CARICOM region unless you have first applied to COTED and there is a demonstration that another country cannot produce the amount that you would want."

He added that such a model would be employed locally within the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) where "certain items that can be produced on a rotational basis in Barbados will not be brought in when we get the information [from that study]," Dr. Estwick pointed out.


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