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Expert: Farmers bank the answer

Tony Best

Expert: Farmers bank the answer

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Barbados needs an agricultural development bank to help kick-start a reinvigorated agricultural industry, boost food production and slash the food import bill, says expert Dr Chelston Brathwaite.
Brathwaite, a Barbadian who until recently was director general of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Western Hemisphere’s largest agricultural agency, raised the alarm over Barbados’ food import bill of between $500 million and $600 million annually, insisting every attempt should be made to produce more Bajan food.
“We need to invest more of our resources in food production,” Brathwaite argued.
“The prescription to solve our problem of a lack of food security is to take some of the land that we have producing sugar cane; take some of the money we are using to subsidize sugar; and invest it in food production.
“We should select some of our key farmers by giving them incentives, the infrastructure, technology and finance what needs to be done to produce more food . . . .
“The farmers can’t go into the banks and borrow money at the kinds of rates that the banks are asking today in order to invest in agriculture.
“The Government needs to help in that regard and to establish in my view an agricultural development bank.”
Sir Courtney Blackman, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, endorsed Brathwaite’s proposal, saying it would encourage farmers to grow more food, help countries in the region reduce imports and save valuable foreign exchange.
“We have gone through 30 years of the International Monetary Fund telling us about the free market and that subsidies are bad and all that kind of thing.
“Subsidies are not bad for the Americans and they are not bad for the Europeans, but they are bad for Caribbean farmers.
“We need to help our farmers and assist them in financing their businesses,” he said.