Barbados Agriculture Overview
With a multi-million dollar food import bill that keeps spiralling, Barbados is placing more emphasis these days on agriculture.
The primary objective is to grow more of what it consumes. Overall local food production was up 1.6% in 2008.
For generations, sugar has been the mainstay of Barbados agriculture. In 2007 production rose marginally (0.6%) to 33,900 tonnes, most of it exported to the European Community where it fetches a guaranteed price. But last year (2008) sugar output fell by 6.9%, primarily due to a late start to harvesting.
Making up for sugar’s fortunes, value added from the other agriculture sectors rose by 3.7%. A whopping 36.2% increase in fish catches more than compensated for the decline in the production of milk (3%) and chicken (0.1 per cent).
The new government in place in Barbados since January 2008 has begun to give new life to agriculture and has announced a series of initiatives to support the quest for greater local food security.
According to its plan, a new class of high tech, small, young food farmers and distributors will be created with government’s guidance. To underpin this, the administration of Prime Minister David Thompson has committed itself to guaranteeing $15 million in loans to two Barbados state-run agricultural agencies in the 2008-2009 fiscal year.
The money is ultimately earmarked for providing an additional 10 acres of greenhouse, shade house, tunnels and irrigation systems for modern agriculture and for packing houses and systems, cooling rooms and vehicles for transporting produce. The idea is to stimulate agricultural activity by providing new facilities for those interested and trained in modern agriculture.
Additionally, Barbados says it will identify an agricultural plantation to make available to the Wayside Vendors Association for a pilot project, producing vegetables for sale by its members.
In another initiative, the government has announced a $300,000 pilot project involving about 30 selected farmers to demonstrate the effective use of technology-driven irrigation. The project is specifically to demonstrate the efficient use of tensiometers – devices that are used on the farm to directly measure soil moisture status and automatically control irrigation water applications.
Aquaculture and fish farming are also being targeted in the revival of Barbados agriculture. Genuine aquaculture farmers are to be given access to the same types of incentives and capital as other farmers.
To support fish farming, duty-free concessions are coming for imports of live fish and fingerlings and live crustaceans intended for breeding or rearing for food. The concessions will also apply to machinery, equipment and chemicals for aquaculture, mariculture and aquaponics systems.
Barbados Cotton Industry
Efforts are also underway to successfully re-develop the Barbados sea-island cotton industry, primarily to form the basis for the redevelopment of an indigenous Barbados garment industry.
Author: Brett Callaghan