Should Barbados fear economic fallout from the recent drought?
Everyone knows Barbados is facing a major water shortage and the impact has been felt for the past year by hundreds of residents and businesses.
While it is acknowledged that by international standards Barbados is considered a water scarce country, the challenges posed have been partly attributed to an extended period of drought. This has affected the water supply, the authorities said, and continues to have a negative effect.
The Caribbean Drought & Precipitation Monitoring Network recently released the latest Caribbean Drought Bulletin. It said that in June, July and August Barbados was “moderately dry”. Last month, Barbados was “exceptionally dry”.
Commenting on the “current drought situation”, the report stated: “With the exception of Haiti, Martinique, St Lucia and parts of Trinidad and Tobago, July rainfall was normal to above-normal, which has continued to alleviate adverse drought conditions from earlier in 2016.
“We expect that a shorter-term drought situation may develop in northern portions of French Guiana and Suriname. Longer-term drought remains possible in St Lucia and St Vincent, and is evolving in … French Guiana and Tobago.”
The bulletin also said that “rainfall amounts are still expected to increase approaching the later part of the wet season into the 2017 dry season.
“This would continue to alleviate drought conditions across the Caribbean. Further, this evolution may tilt the odds towards increased flash floods and long-term flooding potential until the end of 2016. The exception is the northwestern-most part of the Caribbean (Bahamas and Cuba), where drought chances tend to increase towards February with La Niña.”
This suggests that there is good and bad news likely for Barbados and its neighbours where drought and rainfall are concerned between now and the end of the year.
Experience has shown that there is a major economic cost when drought hits with the agriculture sector arguably the area that is most affected. Other industries like tourism, that depend on a steady water supply for visitors, can also be negatively impacted.
Reports from some farmers and other businesses in sections of Barbados that have been affected by crippling water outages suggests that there is some truth to this.
A terms of reference document for the preparation of a Barbados National Drought Early Warning and Information System Implementation Plan said the island was affected by droughts in 1997 and 2009.
The 1997 drought resulted in significant impacts to the agriculture sector as well as localised water shortages in higher elevations.
Several wells in the farming areas went dry which led to a situation in which crop production and animal production dropped. Animals died due to lack of foliage and water.
This led to an increase in the importation of crops that could have been locally grown. As a result, there was a full economic impact due to the increase in the importation bill and the rise in prices for these commodities.
Barbadian farmers have already lost crops and livestock as a result of the drought, and the most recent sugar crop was also negatively affected. With the rainy season due to end next month, and based on the forecast of the meteorological experts in Barbados and the region, the island will be anxious to find out what the dry season has in store.
Based on past experiences, there is likely to be some fallout economically. (SC)