US$150 000 for agri project
Barbadian small farmers are missing out on millions of dollars in earnings from the international cruise industry and local supermarkets.
But a new effort being led by local agri-business solutions professional Keeley Holder and involving well known institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is out to change this.
The IDB recently announced, and Holder confirmed to BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY, that a venture called Integrating Small Farmers and the Cruise Ship Value Chain in Barbados was under way. US$150 000 in support via the IDB’s Multi-laterial Investment Fund’s Small Enterprise Development Facility was approved by the bank’s board on August 13 this year and the contract signature date was October 25.
“The objective of this project is to link local producers of fruit and vegetables with local grocery chains and cruise ships as primary buyers,” the IDB said.
It is understood that Holder pitched the idea for the project and outlined its concept last year during a United Nations Food And Agriculture Organization Small Scale Farming In The Caribbean workshop.
Her documented information on the matter showed that Barbadian farmers were losing out on substantial earnings from the cruise industry despite evidence of demand from these purchasers.
Holder’s information showed that 120 000 pounds of local produce was “exported” to the cruise sector in 2011/2012, earning local growers $1.2 million in foreign exchange.
However, there were missed opportunities. While 60 000 pounds of additional produce was requested, Barbadian farmers could not meet the demand and some 11 crops and ten herbs were “desired” but were “not price competitive”.
The goal of the new project was to help expand the market for small farmers to increase their earnings from these buyers as well as local grocers. This would include developing a “crop-forecasting analysis system”.
Other aims were improving market access and developing business partnerships, increasing farmer competitiveness by leading change and effective knowledge transfer methods, institutional strengthening of the Barbados National Union of Farmers, knowledge management and best practices dissemination.
The project paper said increased exportation of local produce would achieve food security by stabilizing price and business relationship. Added benefits would be that the local market would not be saturated as it would be otherwise, and farmer productivity and competitiveness would improve.
Based on most recent cruise statistics released by the Barbados Statistical Service, the numbers indicated a continuing ready market for local produce.
While there was a 5.6 per cent drop in long stay arrivals between January and last month, a decrease of 27 210 visitors, cruise performed better, with cruise arrivals being 490 999 in that same 11 month period, an increase of 48 553, or 11 per cent.
Research also revealed that the Canadian government was involved in a project to help small farmers in Barbados and five other Caribbean countries “to contribute to economic growth in the Caribbean through increased sales of fresh produce by small-scale local producers to high value markets”.
“It is helping small farmers to increase the quality and quantity of fresh, regionally grown fruit and vegetables and linking them to buyers such as regional grocery chains, cruise lines, airlines, hotels and restaurants,” according to information on that project. It is being done in partnership with the regional Caribbean Farmers.