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Late pay turns farmers off Agrofest shows


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by SHERIA BRATHWAITE [email protected] com

SOME FARMERS have opted not to participate in the livestock shows at Agrofest this year due to late payments for last year’s competitions and “inadequate” prize money.

DAILY NATION

investigations revealed that some received cheques from the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) as late as two weeks ago, while others got their monies in January and November last year.

BAS chief executive officer James Paul said his organisation was owed about $160 000 in sponsorship from the agricultural exhibition last year and in 2017, which contributed greatly to the problem.

One of the young farmers, who competed in one of the small ruminant shows, said he was so discouraged he might never participate in the show again.

“People were encouraging me to go last year because it was a good way to market my product,” he said, “but it took 11 months for me to receive my money and that was very discouraging. It really had an impact on me entering this year. When I was mailed the entry forms, I tore it up and put it in the garbage.”

Another farmer with more than ten years in the industry, who was well known for his sheep and goats, also expressed frustration with the long wait. He too requested anonymity, but also lamented that after farmers put in hard work to make sure their animals were worthy for show, it was disrespectful for them to have to wait close to a year for their monies. He too would not be competing in this year’s animal showcase.

‘A disgrace’

The owner of Spot Light Nubians, Kevin Marshall, dubbed the unofficial Nubian goat king for the quality of his animals, has not competed in the livestock show for the past two years. He described the prize money as “a disgrace”.

“I know they could do better with the prize money,” Marshall said. “It is so bad that we have become the laughing stock of the Caribbean. If they cannot do any better, they could give the farmers incentives such as vouchers to go to hardware stores to get equipment or feed, or they could partner with car dealers and have a grand prize of a 4X4.

“Back in the day when the livestock shows were held in The Grotto, farmers were given incentives.”

Another farmer said that in 2016, farmers waited for up to four months for their money and up to six months in 2017.

Paul said he was shocked to hear that some farmers had such grievances, adding they should speak up about those matters at meetings.

“We’re owed a set of money from last year and 2017 which accumulates to $160 000,” he said. “So, obviously, it resulted in cash flow issues. But this was the first time in the history of Agrofest that this issue occurred and we held meetings with farmers outlining our challenges.”

He added that measures were being put in place to make sure there was no recurrence.

Close to $40 000 is allocated towards prize monies for the livestock shows.

Agrofest kicks off tomorrow at Queen’s Park in The City, and ends on Sunday.

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