For the past two years, Barbados has seen unprecedented growth in the non-sugar agricultural sector.
But according to Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick, a craving by Barbadians for foreign goods is responsible for driving up the country’s food import bill.
Speaking during the Estimates in the House of Assembly today, Estwick said that while Barbados was largely self-sufficient when it came to poultry production and vegetables and herbs, local demand for international foods was cause for concern.
“When they speak to the food import bill in Barbados and you hear all this talk about $700 million plus in food imports, what they don’t tell the public is that out of that importation of $700 million, only $35 million of that is vegetables and root crops and herbs.
“What that tells you is that the issue is not one of domestic production per say, but it is a matter of the value added upstream that we are importing into Barbados to satisfy a lifestyle that has moved in regards to how societies evolve as they become culturally influenced, whether it is European or American,” Estwick argued.
“We have moved our palette to an international palette and has therefore driven the import bill along the lines of high value added products that are not manufactured in Barbados.”
He revealed that in recent times, there had been significant growth in the sector as it related to farmers and the planting of cotton.
Estwick said records from the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) that deals with agricultural development, showed that in 2007 there were about 107 farmers within the land lease programme.
“As of last year, that number is up to 188 farmers. These are farmers who have come into the system and are actively involved in producing vegetables, root crops and other livestock farming in Barbados,” the minister noted.
Estwick said they had also been able to sustain a significant increase in the acreage planted in cotton.
“We have been looking for as much as 600 acres this season, which would have been up when we look back in 2009 and 2010. This has demonstrated a significant increase . . . over a 120 per cent increase as to what was previously planted in regards to seed cotton.”