Today, Barbados joins with Member States of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in celebrating World Food Day. This year’s theme, “Our actions are our future – Better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life” reminds us that if we are to improve our quality of life, we need to establish sustainable food production systems and environmentally friendly solutions that will not compromise access to fresh, safe and nutritious food.
This advice is timely, as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted food supply chains and impacted the cost, availability, transportation and logistics and quality of imported products. Faced with this reality, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has placed significantly more emphasis on the reinvigoration of the agricultural sector.
The Farmers’ Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive, managed by the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation, has already trained 552 individuals, many of whom are actively involved in crop production, aquaculture, apiculture and livestock farming on lands leased through the programme. Additionally, under the planned Lears Project, allotment gardens and commercial farming will be undertaken to boost our agricultural production.
Relief will soon be coming to farmers at River, St. Philip, where Phase 1 of the Water Augmentation Project is to establish a 6-million-gallon catchment in order to provide irrigation water to farmers and to aid in relief of flooding events. Similar work is slated for the Spring Hall Land Lease Project, St. Lucy, in 2022.
Conscious of the need to protect our environment, the Ministry’s campaign on the proper disposal of empty pesticide containers was also recently launched at these two locations.
The Ministry continues to focus on embracing modern agriculture techniques, drought-resistant crops and climate smart technologies to build resilience against the adverse effects of climate change and maximize production.
Of note, the Ministry has started a digital project with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology to trace pests and diseases in crops and obtain real-time sensing through the Internet of Things technology.
While these projects will boost local agricultural production, it is evident that Barbados’ small land mass, with only 25% identified as arable land, cannot adequately supply all of the produce required for us to be food-secure.
COVID permitting, Barbados looks forward to finalizing arrangements with the Suriname Government under the Brokopondo Agreement, which will see a number of our farmers being relocated there to grow crops for shipment to Barbados. Just last week the Governments of Barbados and Guyana engaged in bilateral discussions and agreed to identify areas to complement each other’s agricultural sectors, with a view to increasing food security.
Pertinent to these collaborations, the Barbados Government will shortly be enacting sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) legislation designed to ensure that Barbados meets international requirements in the areas of food safety, plant and animal health and veterinary public health. Barbados’ legislation is also harmonized with the CARICOM model SPS Bills, which will better facilitate the movement of goods to our regional neighbours and beyond.
Indeed, it has been a challenging year for the farming community, having to deal with the effects of the ashfall and hurricane Elsa on livestock and crops; periods of limited rainfall; reduced markets resulting from the decline in tourist arrivals due to the pandemic; increased costs of baby chicks and local feed; and the threat of African swine fever. However, despite the trying times, the strength and resilience of Barbadians are manifested in the level of commitment and perseverance shown.
The constraints impacted farmers’ ability to achieve the production targets set. Nonetheless, it is expected that production will return to some semblance of normalcy as the country continues to adjust to the existing COVID environment. Therefore, it is projected that during the last quarter of 2021, some 3,539 tonnes of food crops will be harvested from 573 acres of land.
On this World Food Day, I express gratitude to farmers, other stakeholders and my team at the Ministry for continuing to work tirelessly through these challenges. I remain confident that together, we will ensure a sustainable agricultural sector.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir