Acting Permanent Secretary, Lennox Chandler (left), presents dairy farmer Barry Bishop with his cheque. Looking on (from right to left) is??President of the Barbados Dairy and Beef Producers Association, Brian Allan; dairy farmer McDonald Stevenson; and Chairperson of the Farmers Committee, Annette Beckett (partly hidden).
Dairy farmers have been thrown a lifeline by the Ministry of Agriculture to the tune of BDS $1.5 million, through the Agricultural Development Fund.
Acting Permanent Secretary, Lennox Chandler, presented some of them with cheques today, on behalf of Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, at the Ministry’s Graeme Hall, Christ Church headquarters.
Mr. Chandler said 18 farmers would benefit from sums ranging from $60,000 to $100,000. Reading a statement from Dr. Estwick, Mr. Chandler explained that the monies would be distributed to various dairy producers based on a formula "worked out by the farmers themselves".
Dr. Estwick’s statement further noted that: "It is anticipated that these monies will help tide the farmers over until a clear and cogent strategy can be fashioned by the various stakeholders, which will serve to determine the way forward for the industry. I am indeed exceedingly happy that we could have acted so swiftly to put measures in place to avert what could have possibly been the decimation of the local dairy industry and concomitantly, the ruination of a number of our small milk producers."
Annette Beckett, Chairperson of the Farmers Committee which was set up to negotiate with the Pine Hill Dairy (PHD) on behalf of dairy farmers, said the industry had been in crisis since September, 2012, when the farmers’ milk quotas were cut by 25 per cent. She disclosed that the Farmer’s Committee was due to meet with the PHD before the end of this month to negotiate "cuts" for March, April and May "where the suggestion is a 42 per cent cut".
"You can, therefore, see how extremely timely this monetary assistance is as it will go a long way in helping the farmers deal with the tremendous losses from these [past few] months. The Minister and the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture have shown their confidence in the industry and indeed [its] importance to the island with this initiative…We assure you that this money will be used effectively, and with forward planning, the dairy farmers will be able to add value to the great milk that they presently produce," Ms. Beckett stated.