With local agriculture under severe pressure due to rising food prices and increased volatility in the global marketplace, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management is taking steps to ensure the sector has a bright and credible future.
To this end, the Ministry is working to develop a White Paper on Agriculture, which will seek to reposition the sector from its strictly agrarian focus to one emphasising food production and nutrition.
This was announced by Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, who said his Ministry would shortly engage stakeholders on the way to move the sector forward via a National Consultation on a White Paper on Agriculture at the Savannah Hotel, next Wednesday,??May 30, starting at 9:00 a.m.
He was speaking during a press conference on Wednesday at his Ministry’s headquarters at Graeme Hall, Christ Church.
"The preparation of the White Paper is but the first step in a process that will lead to the transformation and the repositioning of the agricultural sector in Barbados. We will create from this consultation an overarching policy framework to guide other initiatives pursued by the ministry and these initiatives are the preparation of a National Food and Nutrition Security Strategy and Plan of Action… and the preparation of a Medium-Term National Agricultural Strategy, as well as a Medium-Term Strategic Plan for the Ministry of Agriculture, which will include a component focused on strengthening the service delivery capacity of the Ministry. We are on course to have these initiatives launched in June 2012," he explained.
The Consultation will be followed by a series of town hall meetings throughout the island where members of the public will have an opportunity to share their views on the agricultural sector in Barbados.
The first will take place on Monday, June 4, at the Alexandra School, Speightown, St. Peter, starting at 7:00 p.m.; the second on Sunday, June 10, at the Princess Margaret School, Six Roads, St. Philip at 5:00 p.m.; while the third will be on the following day, Monday, June 11, at the Valley Resource Centre, The Valley, St. George, at 7:00 p.m.
The Minister, who was joined by Permanent Secretary, Michael King; Chairman of the National Agricultural Commission, Dr. Chelston Brathwaite, and Chief Agricultural Officer (Ag), Ralph Farnum, said the repositioning of the sector would also go some way in helping the country to mitigate its rising food import bill which, for 2011, stood at US $326.89 million.
Policy areas which the White Paper will focus on are: land use; praedial larceny; food and nutrition security; food imports; investment; promotion of inter-sector linkages between the food and the agricultural sector, and other areas such as tourism, manufacturing and energy; capacity building and the development of appropriate human resources; the development of a sugarcane industry; incentives and technical and financial support; and the role of other national, regional and international agencies in support of agriculture.
It is expected that the White Paper on Agriculture will be available in early July.