THE PEP COLUMN: A national mission for Barbados
What is the national mission of Barbados? What is the great central objective that we are all striving towards as a nation?
In this era of food scarcity, spiralling food prices and rampant international food insecurity, wouldn’t it make sense to establish the goal of cutting Barbados’ massive food import bill as a “national mission” upon which we will focus a substantial portion of our time, creativity, energy and resources?
Were it up to the Peoples Empowerment Party (PEP), we would set a national goal to cut Barbados’ massive food import bill by 50 per cent over the next seven years and mobilize the Barbadian people to achieve this objective.
Of course, this would require a national commitment to agriculture, inclusive of a commitment not to engage in any further destruction of good arable farm land in Barbados. In addition, all currently unused arable land would have to be put back into production.
We would also establish a governmental “parity pricing” system to ensure that local farmers are guaranteed prices for their products that cover the cost of inputs plus a reasonable return on their investment.
And we would seek to give Barbadian farmers a boost by establishing a policy of using local produce in the school meals programme for both primary and secondary schools. Furthermore, we would deploy a range of “carrot and stick” measures to guide the hotels in Barbados towards local foods.
Although we would be focusing on developing food crops, we would not neglect Barbados’ traditional strength in sugar production. Under the PetroCaribe Energy Cooperation Agreement, the government of Venezuela had offered to barter Barbadian sugar for precious Venezuelan oil at preferential sugar prices. If the PEP had its way, Barbados would have signed up to this revolutionary developmental programme years ago!
At the centre of the future development of commercial agriculture in Barbados must be new initiatives in agro-industry or agro-processing. The PEP would therefore commit to making a substantial investment in a comprehensive national agro-processing facility that would cater to processing ground provisions, fruit, vegetable and local fish.
We can think of no better investment for $80 million to $100 million of the capital budget of Barbados.
Our party also envisages pursuing new ventures in commercial agriculture on the basis of a system of intensive, science-driven farms supported by research work done at the University of the West Indies. We would also put new mechanisms in place to ensure that lower food prices are delivered to the masses of Barbadian people. These would include low-cost food and nutrition centres operated by our proposed local Government system and the development of new trading relationships with low-cost Latin American countries.
• The PEP column represents the views of the People’s Empowerment Party.