Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Industry and Small Business Development, Dr. David Estwick, has been outlining some of the priority areas for his ministry for the coming year.

Chief among them, he pointed out, was the development of a comprehensive marketing programme for the Ministry of Agriculture and ensuring greater coordination among farmers.

Speaking during an interview with officials from the Ministry’s Agricultural Information Services Unit, he said the marketing programme would allow for the promotion of agricultural produce competitively in both the local and international markets.

"I believe what we need to do now to take agriculture to another level, where it acts as a major contributor to the economic development of the country, would be to create a concise and competitive marketing programme, so that agriculture producers here in Barbados can have their [goods] produced in a more competitive way, with the optimum efficiency, and, therefore, be able to compete in the domestic and international markets," the Minister stressed.

Dr. Estwick added that to make this process possible, the establishment of a state trading enterprise was necessary.

Among the objectives of the enterprise he underlined would be to source environmentally friendly and cost effective inputs to the agricultural sector, so farmers could have the best opportunity for producing goods for the various markets at a cheaper cost.

Dr. Estwick maintained that the proposed facility would also support the marketing programme and assist with the establishment of a database, which would manage agricultural production and trade within the sector.

According to the Agriculture Minister, for too long farmers produced without knowing where their markets were and, therefore, they did not know the quantity of a particular item which may be required within the country.

Citing the case of onions, he said, "there is no coordination with the number of farmers producing onions and those that are produced; there is no determined market for them. Farmers produce these onions when they choose to without having a system that can pin them down when to produce, how much to produce and who to produce for."

???????????????????????????? Dr. Estwick indicated out that the state trading agency would provide farmers with an opportunity to work with the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC), so they can be guided and advised on which items to plant, at what time, and then market their produce to the appropriate buyers, whether hotels, supermarkets or restaurants.

He stressed that such a structure would bring a level of surety to the sector, that is, an institutional framework which would help farmers produce for an established, clear and defined market.??

Author: Andr?? Skeete

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