Barbados Agricultural Society CEO James Paul wants a higher tax slapped on agricultural land speculators to discourage misuse of the island’s arable terrain.
Paul sees this measure as helping to ensure that private speculators don’t work around the laws and sell, for housing, land that was originally used for agriculture, though he concedes that the Government is also guilty of this practice.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY, Paul said that the country could move much closer to feeding itself if lands for agriculture were used as allocated, and better soil management techniques employed.
“I think that the problem in Barbados is that we have people who are in control of the land now who are basically speculating on it. They are looking at it from the point of view of real estate potential,” he said earlier today.
“We all know about the racket that is being run in this country where people acquire land, leave it fallow for a number of years, and then apply for a change of use . . . the very good agricultural land, and in the agricultural heartland of this country.”
The current administration’s Member of Parliament acknowledged, however, that the Government was also guilty of misuse of land that should go to farming.
“I think that, maybe, some of the redistribution of lands that has occurred recently has compromised some agricultural land. That is true . . . yes, Government has to share some of the responsibility where that is concerned.
“But I will also make the point that some of the best agricultural lands are in the hands of private landowners,” he added.
For those persons who circumvent the law by acquiring and leaving agricultural land idle then applying for a change in designation, Paul called for the imposition of a “super tax limit”, as practised in Britain.
A super tax limit is the point beyond which taxes are levied on persons at a rate sometimes far above the normal charge.
“You keep agricultural land idle and don’t want to sell it, do like what they do in England, put a super tax on the land, so that when you think that you are actually benefiting from the changing land values that are coming about then, that allowance goes back to the state,” Paul said.
He said that in order to maximize yields from the soil, there must be a return to interchanging of crops, especially with sugar cane that occupies vast acreages of Barbados.
“What we should have in Barbados, which use to happen before, is the proper rotation of crops between cane and vegetables.”
“In a sense, the fact that we have not been able to do that signals a failure on the part of the management within the agriculture sector on our estates, or whoever, in order to ensure that they continue to foster proper agronomics practices,” said the chief executive officer of Barbados’ farming community.
In spite of challenges to sugar as a principal export commodity, Paul said: “We do need cane for other sectors of agriculture to survive, especially the fruit and vegetables sector.”
Stressing the relevance of cane as a natural soil enhancer and recalling a past practice of rotating cane with other crops, Paul explained:
“Different crops take different types of things into the soil, out of the soil, and that in a sense sugar is one of the main things you find to help put back a lot of nutrients into the soil. For instance, you had a system where after the five years or so [of cane], you put in a vegetable crop.
“So we can have both; it is not one or the other.”