Small and medium-size farms across Barbados now have a Government tractor cultivation scheme in place aimed at enhancing domestic food production.
Minister of Agriculture Dr. David Estwick made this disclosure today, while launching the scheme at the headquarters of Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation at Fairy Valley, Christ Church.
He said the BADMC currently has two tractors and was expected to acquire another two to make up the full complement.
The minister added that the BADMC had entered into a joint venture arrangement with the private sector to provide the services to farmers. It was also anticipated that the tractors owned by the Barbados Agricultural Management Co Ltd will be pressed into service at a pepper corn rate.
Estwick, who became Minister of Agriculture on October, 2011, said: “The reality is that for some time there has been a lot of talk about trying to enhance production at the level of small farmers and at the level of medium-size farmers. The major complaint that we had when we evaluated the small farmers and medium-size farmers was that they could not get their lands prepared effectively for planting.
“That meant they could not get their grounds ploughed, they could not get their grounds rotivated and furrowed so that they can then introduce the various plants. The majority of farms in Barbados is small and medium size… The large farm operators do not need any assistance from Government because they have hundreds of acres and they owned their own tractors.
“So if the majority of farming activity is small and medium-size, and they do not have the capacity to prepare their lands then that is a major constraint to domestic food production. The only way you can resolve that problem is for the state to become involved and provide the type of tractor cultivation services so we can have their lands prepared for them at nominal charges.”
The minister said small and medium-size farmers could take advantage of Government’s new financial incentive programme where “we now would have what used to be the old rebate system replaced by having your up-front costs discounted by what that old rebate value used to be”.
Estwick told farmers that Government would be running that system concurrently with the old rebate and they were confident that once they provided the tractor cultivation services to small and medium size farmers as well as make sure that they received discounts for their farming equipment, materials and supplies, this would go a long way to enhancing domestic production.
“We need to understand the linkage between agricultural production and other sectors like tourism, other sectors like the health sector and other sectors like the energy sector,” Estwick explained.
“You can get $600 million in foreign exchange from the tourism sector, but if you spend the money importing food, then the money goes back out of the country. It is of no value. One of the most important linkages between agricultural production and the tourism sector must necessarily be that tourists who come to the island eat Barbadian food. That is how you save international reserves. If we do not solve that problem we will continue spinning top in mud with tourists spending money and the money leaving the country bringing in all types foods to use,” Estwick said. (NC)