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OUTSIDE THE PULPIT: What’s up with agriculture?

Reverend Errington Massiah

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Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings. Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old. – Micah 7: 13-14
This week I am going to ask a very big question: what is happening to agriculture in Barbados, especially with the sugar cane industry?
As one drives around this country one can’t help noticing the absence of the labour force on our plantations. The fields are there, but there are no workers.
Some workers are working only three days a week while others are not working at all. Is it so because the plantations have no money?
Are those responsible for the sugar industry – Government – going to allow it to be buried? At the moment it is on the edge of the grave, only waiting for the committal – earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust – something that I am very familiar with. Nothing is happening.
Right now growing sugar cane is not profitable for small farmers or large farmers (plantations). How can farmers survive when they are paid $45 per tonne for sugar in this age, when the cost of everything is very high? Lest we forget, the labourers are paid $65 a day. The upkeep of tractors is also very costly.
How can farmers be paid $45 a tonne when it costs them $120 and up to produce one tonne of sugar? Farmers have to buy fertilizers at $76 a bag for 27020 manure and $72 a bag for 24018 manure.
The time is ripe for Government to seriously make the subsidy to the industry around $120 per tonne in order to save it.
If we allow our fields to go out of sugar production, others will be handed a golden opportunity to plant and grow marijuana. I am sure that we would not want that.