Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick today warned landowners who allowed their properties to remain uncultivated that they were contributing to the problem of food insecurity.
Estwick raised the concern this morning at the farmers’ market and culinary exhibition, which was held in observance of World Food Day on Sunday.
He urged landowners to take advantage of the incentive schemes available to them so that they could contribute to the development of the local industry.
“Understand that the choice to leave your lands fallow in this country contributes to a worsening food security in the country. I am trying my best in the revitalization of the sugar industry, to attempt to address this via the crop rotation variables.
“I am trying to say to you to utilize the system that we have, utilize the rebate systems that we have, and come on board,” Estwick added.
He also said he had put forward recommendations to the economic committee of Cabinet, for the establishment of a mechanism to link the national procurement system to domestic production.
“If we are to sustain agricultural output in Barbados and develop it, then it must first start at home. It makes no sense that the QEH, the Geriatric Hospital, the Psychiatric hospital, the School Meal Service [are] accessing imported foods if those foods can be produced locally in Barbados. It is your money that is going overseas to support some other farmers someplace else,” he told the gathering.
Today’s exhibition highlighted the importance of the sector to the overall well being of the population.
Sticking to the theme of the day, Eat Well, the farmers, vendors and chefs present proudly displayed their produce and dishes made from locally grown ingredients.
Samples of cassava cheese cake, as well as cassava sorbet and sweet potato sorbet produced by Carmeta’s proved to be a hit with patrons, some of whom were not aware that such delights could be made from the humble cassava.
At another stall, Carlesa Enterprises, owner Tonya Ifill showed off her green banana pasta and green banana flour, as part of further efforts to highlight the versatility of local crops.
“We only use it one way in Barbados, and that is to cook, but you could do a lot. You have the green banana ice cream, you have the porridge, you can bake with it, you can do a lot more products, so that’s what I’m working on right now,” Ifill told Barbados TODAY.
Chefs and mixologists were also present for a demonstration on eating healthy and cooking creative dishes with local produce, much to the delight of the members of the primary and secondary school students and other members of the public present.
Participants in the ongoing Agripreneurship programme also displayed their products, which included natural soaps, as well as a range of skin and hair care products.
However, despite the high level of creativity on offer, patrons seeking fresh agricultural produce only had a few stalls to choose from.
It was a possible indication of some of the several challenges highlighted by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Elsworth Reid, who told the opening that climate change and an increase in existing plant pests and diseases which threaten local pests were a major worry for the sector.
In that regard, Reid called for players in the industry to move away from obsolete practices, if the agriculture sector is to remain sustainable.
“This would mean putting away the old techniques and taking up the new. It would also mean distancing themselves from prolonged antique and obsolete thinking and be willing to be led in their decisions and actions by research, innovation and creativity,” Reid said.
He added that while food security and safety were under serious threat, climate change and plant pests may not be the only culprits.
Reid also pointed to the “unscrupulous behaviour” of some rich landowners, who he said had left large areas of good arable land fallow for years, “probably in anticipation that these lands would eventually be allowed to be put to alternative uses other than agriculture”.
“Moreover, for years now, we have seen the expansion of housing estates aggressively competing with agriculture for the use of lands and taking over good arable lands.
“This, I believe, is to the extent that if not controlled or stopped at this point, Barbados may in the very near future, face a serious crisis where there would not be enough arable land left available to adequately serve as a sustainable base for food security and food safety for the country,” Reid said.
He further warned that until agriculture was fully recognized by the major economic players for its potential as an economic growth sector, Barbados will remain a vulnerable developing and potentially food scarce country.
World Food Day is being observed this year under the theme The climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.