The agricultural sector in Barbados achieved a major milestone yesterday, when the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, launched a pilot food zone project, yesterday at the St. George Parish Church car park in the Glebe. It will involve farmers in the districts of St. Michael and St. George.

The food zone, first conceptualised by ambassador-designate to China, Dr. Chelston Braithwaite, has now come to fruition as an initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture. It is supported by the Barbados Agricultural Marketing Development Corporation (BADMC), the Barbados arm of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture in Barbados.

The initiative will help the ministry to better assist farmers in a number of areas, by way of new technologies which should help to increase crop production and also assist with marketing of crops.

Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer with responsibility for Crops, Dr. Dennis Blackman, said that when the project achieved its goals, it would be duplicated across the island.

???There are a lot of farmers in Barbados who have small plots of land, maybe less than an acre, and even though they are good farmers they may be unable to increase their production… but because of that we want them to increase their techniques, for example, this co-op [St. George Farmers??? Cooperative], is looking to assist with enhancing the production of its members by sourcing green houses for them and [in] that way they will be able to produce better quality food and also have the support of the Ministry and their own Cooperative to make them [the green houses] as reasonable as possible.???

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick said that the project did not ???just happen???, but it was planned thoroughly because the ministry and other entities in the Barbados agricultural sector recognised the importance of building linkages between farmers and others involved in the sector.

???We thought about all of those people who are involved in the production process ??? the post harvesting process, and then all of the other elements [including] agro processing… We must bring all of those together and all of those are now brought together for the first time in Barbados in a structured way, within this first pilot food zone;??? he added.

Dr. Estwick urged the farmers in the zone to work collectively as a team, in order to obtain the best price for their raw materials. ??????So, when you want your drip irrigation, don???t do it individually; when you want your fertilisers, don???t do it individually. Every farming input that you want can be done through the BADMC, giving you the cheapest input for those particular items in your farming production cost structure. That is going to radically alter not only your cash flow capability but it???s going to radically alter what you are going to do. This is how you use the institutional frame work of the government to be able to advance that type of situation,??? the Agriculture Minister said.

There are approximately 526 farmers located in the parishes of St. Michael and St. George, with approximately 244 located physically within the identified area of the food zone.

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