Minister of Agriculture, Sen. Haynesley Benn
Food security and sovereignty will be the main focus of the Ministry of Agriculture in carrying this country forward.
This was disclosed yesterday by Minister of Agriculture, Haynesley Benn, while speaking at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation’s Accountability Seminar at Chelsea House, Chelsea Road, St. Michael.
Stating that food security implied that food was available and at affordable prices, he said this, as well as food sovereignty, should be a high priority on the agenda of any country.
According to him, food sovereignty involved the right of farmers to produce food and the right of consumers to be able to decide what they want to consume; the right of all nations to protect themselves from excessively cheap agricultural and food imports; and the linking of agricultural prices to production costs.
In this regard, Minister Benn revealed that Government had developed some broad policy initiatives which would be pursued to ensure that the goal of food sovereignty throughout the short to medium term was achieved. These are: placing priority on local food production for the domestic market, based on diversified and agro-ecologically based production; ensuring fair prices for local farmers through the repositioning of the agricultural sector to become more competitive; and the recognition and promotion of farmers’ cooperatives, as well as the role of women in food production.
Commenting on Barbados’ ability to handle the current economic crisis, he said the country would have been better prepared if the sayings by the late Carmeta Fraser- “Food Comes First” and “Grow what you eat and eat what you grow”- had been embraced.
Senator Benn also pointed out that for the agricultural sector to become sustainable and competitive, this country would have to look towards the new agriculture of the 21st century. He pointed out that this would have to be based on agro industrial development that exploited the inter-sectoral linkage of agriculture with the rest of the economy, and promoted food security and rural prosperity. It would also embody cutting edge technologies, innovation and knowledge and offer agri-business opportunities in an expanding range of food and non-food products and services.
He listed a number of areas for intervention in the new agriculture. These included organic agriculture, green house technology, herbal cosmetics and medicinal products, agro energy, agro tourism, food for ethnic markets, and food production from the Caribbean Sea.
Minister Benn opined that Barbados and by extension the Caribbean were at a defining point in “our history where we must determine whether we will continue to depend on external food supplies or whether we will seek to improve our national agriculture systems and attain an improved level of food security.”