Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agriculture Society, James Paul, would like more private sector entities to support the local agriculture sector, especially those who receive “healthy subsidies” from government.
Addressing the recent Annual General Assembly of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), Paul noted that the BAS’ continuing relationship with Sandals and Massy Super Centre has been a bonus for the local farmers who would otherwise not have a market for their produce.
“We have to fight and ensure that we get what is ours even in the face of those who seek to impose a regime that would lead to the undermining and eventual destruction of the sector.
“It is amazing that we have sectors in this country that benefit to a large degree from healthy subsidies and allowances from the state and which claim a significant percentage of government expenditure already saying ‘give us more’,” Paul said.
He added that the BAS would welcome some gratitude form some of those businesses, as well as moves to develop linkages that provide markets for the local farmers.
“It would not be ungracious on their part to at least work with local agricultural producers to source the required quality and quantities of produce required,” he said.
Paul told the audience that if Sandals can honour their commitment to buy local produce, “why therefore can’t all our existing local hoteliers demonstrate a concerted effort to work with the sector to increase their purchases of locally produced agricultural products?”
According to him, support from the private sector is needed now more than ever because of the economic challenges facing the country, and it would also provide an opportunity to maximise earnings from tourism by encouraging more expenditure on locally produced items.
“Further there are those who claim that somehow the average tourist cannot be attracted to locally-produced agricultural commodities. However if that is the case how come it is that so many of them are attracted to Oistins to wine and dine on the same foods that Bajans eat. We need to get past the myth and deal with the reality.
“The private sector of this country needs to face up to the fact that the business model that they are operating does not meet the current needs of the country.
“The private sector needs to accept the fact that they are critical foreign exchange earners but they must think outside the box to fulfil this mandate,” Paul told the meeting.
Paul noted that the BAS is constantly seeking out new opportunities for advancing agricultural production, and partnerships are important in their efforts.
According to him the Society’s membership of regional farmers’ organisations such as the Caribbean Farmers’ Network and the Caribbean Agri Business Association has assisted in defending farmers’ interest at the regional level.
“It has helped to promote the concept and understanding that fair trade can work and that we need not succeed at the expense of each other.
“The BAS is therefore seeking to use these relationships to develop its local relationships with Massy Super Centre and to increase the quantities of agricultural produce purchased,” Paul said.