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Agriculture overhaul

shadiasimpson, shadiasimpson@nationnews.com

Added 15 January 2013

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FOR A LONG time, agriculture has been placed on the back-burner, and had been made the Cinderella of the ministries. Farmers struggled to survive while token recognition was paid to them.   It will take many years for it to recover, but it can become a front-runner, and play a most important role in the economic growth of the country.  There are many obstacles which agriculture will have to overcome. I believe that we must make a concerted effort to grow more food, and move from primary to agro-industrial production. However, it will require a great deal of planning. One of the major obstacles which must be overcome is the prevalence of predial larceny, which will discourage anyone from planting. Farmers do not draw a weekly or monthly salary like most other workers. They have to wait until a crop matures to reap or ripen before they can make any money. When people standby and steal their crops by night, it can be very disheartening to say the least. I am not a farmer, but I believe that this problem can be solved. The Ministry of Agriculture, the Royal Barbados Police Force and the Attorney General must put their heads together and come up with a formula that will, if not remove it altogether, at least reduce it. This is the key to any practical progress. The planters must be given the hope that their labours will not be in vain. I think the various organizations in the agricultural sector should consider forming an umbrella body. They should consider setting up their own cooperative and credit union. In time to come, they will be able to set up their own food processing plant. However, this will only be successful if they can have produce all year. If the island cannot grow all the produce they need, then they should seek to supplement it by buying from the neighbouring islands. They are just about 100 miles from here. Another problem which our farmers face is with this perennial milk situation. The milk farmers will need to make up their minds to do something about their situation, or remain at the mercy of the Pine Hill Dairy every year. You cannot tell a cow not to give any more milk. When they reduce your quota, you must find a way to market the rest. Again this is where the cooperative comes in. You may have to set up your own milk plant, and do your own marketing. You may even consider producing other milk-based products. Maybe a little competition is just what we need. Moving from non-sugar agriculture, I must express my disappointment on hearing that our current sugar crop will only last nine weeks. That is a significant drop from ten or 15 years ago. I do not want to go into all the statistics about the yields per ton and all of this, but something must be going wrong for a long time to reach this stage. I heard a former parliamentarian say that Bulkeley Factory was a disaster waiting to happen. Instead of having it repaired, the solution was to pull it down. I heard much ado about ethanol, yet not a drop has been produced. For a long time, the sugar cane industry has been dying slowly. Whether it is fruit or vegetables, yams or potatoes, eggs and poultry or milk, we should try to grow more, not less. Whatever kind of intensive agriculture we use, we should go for it. 

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