Barbados Agricultural Society Chief Executive Officer James Paul does not mind sounding like a broken record.
With the effects of the current crippling American drought expected to negatively affect local and imported food prices soon, he is again appealing for authorities to stop taking land out of agriculture and for the island to grow more food.
The difficulties were compounded by figures seen by Barbados TODAY, which showed output fluctuations in the key livestock, vegetable and root crop sub-sectors.
“It emphasises the point that I have been making continuously. We have to review the large amounts of land that we have coming out of agriculture on an annual basis,” Paul said during an interview.
“This is where we need to recognise that we cannot any longer feel comfortable over the fact that we are importing huge amounts of food, that we have to look for more and more foreign exchange in order to purchase, when we have land sitting down in this country idle that people can cultivate.”
Statistics recently released in the 2012 Half Year Economic Review produced by Government’s Economic Affairs Division confirmed some of the difficulty the island was facing as far as growing its own food was concerned.
In the case of vegetable production, between January and June, the good news was that squash and tomato recorded increases, while there was less cucumber and okra grown when compared to the same period last year.
“Squash production increased by 3.7 thousand kilogrammes or 0.9 per cent to 418.4 thousand kilogrammes. Tomato production was estimated at 446.9 thousand kilogrammes, an increase of 173.3 thousand kilogrammes when compared with the figure for 2011,” the review document noted.
“Cucumber production decreased by 140.1 thousand kilogrammes or 25.1 per cent when compared with 556.4 thousand kilogrammes in 2011.”
There were similar fluctuations in root crop production where, for example, onion production increased, but there was a substantial drop in the growing of sweet potato.
“For the period January to June 2012, onion output stood at 102.9 thousand kilogrammes in 2012, an increase of 128 thousand kilogrammes when compared with a similar period in 2011. Sweet potato production decreased by 331.8 thousand kilogrammes or 76.3 per cent to 102.9 thousand kilogrammes in the first half of 2012,” the report stated. (SC)