Today, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security joins with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in celebrating World Food Day. The Ministry also congratulates the FAO on the 75th anniversary of its founding which is being commemorated today and extends sincere appreciation to this worthy institution for its support of the Ministry’s work and its commitment to eliminating poverty, hunger and malnutrition worldwide.
The unprecedented global outbreak of COVID-19 has forcibly brought Barbadians to the reality that any disease, natural disaster or other catastrophe, whether originating at home or abroad, could have a devastating impact on our lives.
The pandemic has certainly underscored the agricultural sector’s integral role in achieving national food and nutrition security, as global food supply chains have been disrupted due to logistical challenges and trade restrictions by major food exporters.
Any further disruption or food scarcity may also cause a hike in global food prices, a scenario that is particularly daunting for us, given the fact that Barbados currently imports about 80% of its food requirements.
This year’s World Food Day theme, “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. Our Actions are our Future” reminds us of the critical need to increase local agricultural production to ensure consistent supplies of fresh, safe and nutritious food at all times.
“The pandemic has certainly underscored the agricultural sector’s integral role in achieving national food and nutrition security, as global food supply chains have been disrupted due to logistical challenges and trade restrictions by major food exporters.”Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir
The theme also emphasizes the need for greater collaboration with the farming community, as well as with regional and international organizations to develop effective programmes and linkages for sustainable agriculture.
The three-month Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, developed by the Ministry to mitigate any scarcity in commodities arising from the COVID-19 environment, garnered the support of a number of farmers who put their hands to the plough to bring idle lands back into production, with emphasis on short-term crops.
I am satisfied that in spite of the severe drought experienced during the initial period of implementation, this initiative proved to be successful, surpassing the acreage targeted for cultivation.
I must commend the resourcefulness shown by several Barbadians, some of whom would have lost their jobs as a result of COVID, and who took up farming, both arable and livestock, for income as well as for domestic consumption.
The Ministry registered 368 new farmers between April and August this year, compared to 513 new registrants for January to December 2019.
The level of interest in the Farmers’ Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED Programme) continues to be high; some 230 persons were enrolled in the second cohort and are currently undergoing online training sessions.
The Governor General, in her recent Throne Speech, underscored the importance of local agriculture, reinforcing the need for the country to be able to feed itself in crises such as the current pandemic.
I am confident that self-sufficiency can be achieved, once the constraints to production are removed. Rest assured that my Ministry is working aggressively to implement policies aimed at overcoming those challenges.
Of particular note is work being undertaken for the enhancement of water catchment areas at River, Bath and Wakefield Plantations; the Cabinet has already approved the redrafting of the 2017 praedial larceny legislation to make it more relevant, with provision made for the use of drone technology and the establishment of a Praedial Larceny Unit within the Royal Barbados Police Force; and as part of the Government’s 12-month Relief Programme, private sector lands will be made available to some 100 Barbadians for farming activities in the soon-to-be launched Lears Urban Land Lease and Food Security Project.
On this World Food Day, I extend sincere thanks to all farmers, institutional partners and of course, my team in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security for their steadfast support and perseverance. Together we will make national food and nutrition security a reality.
May God bless you all.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security
The Hon. Indar Weir, M.P.