The development of proper linkages between the agricultural sector and other key areas of the economy such as health, energy and tourism are vital if Barbados is to develop its earning capacity and save valuable foreign exchange.
So says Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, who stressed that it was of no value earning $600 million in foreign exchange from the tourism sector if the country still had to use those funds to import food from overseas.
“One of the most important linkages between the agricultural sector and the tourism sector must be that the tourists that come here must eat Barbadian food. That is how you save the foreign exchange and it stays in our international reserves. If you don’t solve that problem we will continually be spinning our top in mud, bringing tourists here and the money goes back out of the country,” Estwick pointed out.
The minister said that this way of thinking would benefit the island significantly in terms of its balance of payments, boosting agricultural production and generating employment.
Speaking about the linkage between agriculture and health, Estwick stated that 90 per cent of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases in Barbados were linked to diet and lifestyle, particularly processed, imported foods.
As such, the production of healthy local foods which were high in fibre and contained complex carbohydrates would be critical in reducing the costs associated with CNCDs such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
With regard to energy, the agriculture minister said plans were far advanced for the financing of the new multi-purpose factory at Andrews, which he added would provide some 75,000 homes with electricity from sugar cane.
“That means that you simply can’t see the sugarcane plant as just a means of producing a sweetener. Now, it is utilised to power your homes and that is the type of linkage that we have to get people to understand and therefore, transform their thinking about agriculture,” Estwick said.