There is technology in Brazil that could aid Barbados in combating ratoon stunting disease (RSD), increase cotton and cassava production, and see the emergence of an important by-product from cassava, which could feed our animals.
This was discovered by agriculturalist Stephen Elcock, who travelled to Brazil last month, as part of the Political/Commercial Mission led by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean.
Pointing out that it was his third visit to Brazil, which is considered the largest country on the South American continent, both in terms of its population and economy, Elcock said that on every occasion he had found Brazilians to be “very accommodating” and this time around he had “achieved a lot”.
“I think that when you begin to work with Brazilian companies and they recognize that you have an interest in them, or in what they are doing, then they are always willing to accommodate you.
“My first trip was one of a fact finding mission – looking around to see what they had. On this particular trip, I already knew what was there, so I got more in-depth and we had better conversations and there was a better sense of urgency on their part as to what I was trying to achieve in Barbados,” Elcock explained.
He added that in his meetings with agriculturalists and manufacturers in Sao Paulo, he had found new technologies to help in the area of sugar cane, cotton and cassava production.
“We have an issue, which you call ratoon [stunting] disease, and in Brazil they have developed a machine that cuts the root and applies fungicides and/or nematocides to the root itself and to the ratoon.
“That for me was a first; I had not seen that in my previous trips and it is one of the problems that we will have to tackle if we are to improve our sugar cane yields and production,” the agricultural consultant and manager of Wisdoms Associates said.
According to Elcock, RSD contributes more to greater economic loss in the cane sugar industries throughout the world than any other disease. Yield reduction is caused by slower growth of diseased crops with the accompanying production of thinner and shorter stalks and sometimes a reduction in the number of stalks when the disease is severe.
RSD has been reported in almost every geographic area where sugar cane is grown. It causes an average of five per cent yield loss, but under drought conditions, yield reductions may go as high as 50 per cent.
Another piece of technology which the agriculturalist came across was a cassava planter. Noting that this would augment the efforts in Barbados to “up cassava production with respect to making flour”, he stressed, “unless we can tackle the issue of labour at the field level, we are not really going to get prices of this commodity to come down to the final consumer. So this planter, which I saw in Brazil, will go a long way in helping the production of cassava to become a lot easier to implement, thereby reducing the cost of production to our end product.”
Yet another piece of equipment discovered was a machine which develops chip cassava for animal feed. Pointing out that this would benefit a wide range of farmers, he said: “The animal producers in Barbados, whether pig, dairy or sheep, would be happy to see the production of animal feed from cassava.”
However, while noting that all of these technologies and equipment shown to him by his Brazilian counterparts made it a very viable trip, he mused over the manner in which they could be transferred to Barbados.
“The biggest hurdle we have is that of shipping from Brazil. Though it is cheaper, it takes a little while to get to us, even though we are closer than the actual hubs that they go to, for example, Bahamas and Panama. In looking at what products we can buy out of Brazil, I think that we would need to look at our own shipping.”
Elcock therefore, surmised that for Barbados to be successful in the Brazilian market, transportation, whether by air or sea, was going to be critical.
He cautioned: “When you begin to look at technologies and products out of a country, one of the biggest hurdles always is your cost of transportation and how quickly you can get it out of that country and these things have to be tackled systemically and overtime as you go into the market.”
So, the recent Political/Commercial Mission to Brazil was not only a resounding success as it improved relations between the South American nation and Barbados, but also provided an opportunity for farmers to enhance their agricultural production and to find solutions to a number of nagging problems. (BGIS)