Global economic challenges and high fuel prices have catapulted agriculture into the limelight and demonstrate that Barbados needs to produce more of its food.
Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer, Charleston Lucas made this suggestion recently while proposing that this country and the Caribbean should impose high tariffs on food, which could be grown locally but are imported from outside the region, as a means of combating the high food bill.
He was speaking at the launch of the IICA Youth Farm Programme which was held recently at the headquarters of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture in the Baobab Towers, Warrens, St. Michael.
Explaining that there is a relationship between high food costs and high energy costs in agricultural production, Lucas pointed out: “This is especially so on the large farms which produce corn, soya and other crops that are exported to us in the Caribbean. They then have to be transported all the way to our countries so the costs will go up.”
Further stating that the only way to address the problem was to produce more food locally, he reiterated: “We do not see the energy costs reducing significantly in the short to medium term, so our food prices will continue to be high. This is putting a strain on our food import bill so … we need to grow our own food.”
He added that increasing production locally could only benefit Barbados.
“If we can grow the carrots, the pumpkins, the squash… let us try [to do so] with our limited land. We have to produce as much as we can [and] that would result in the food that we purchase, costing less,” he said.
Noting that home grown produce was healthier, Lucas said: “You can have your food fresh, and you would know that it doesn’t contain any of the harmful pesticides that people use overseas.”
Pointing out that agriculture plays a vital role in the economy, he added that it contributes to the social and economic efforts as it provides a range of employment and income opportunities.
“In the rural areas, agriculture is an outlet for jobs and providing extra earnings for persons to run their home and send their children to school. Some people have a little garden, a two-acre plot, rear a few animals and provide family food security and income,” he said.