A leading economist is placing the blame for the dwindling sugar cane production on “laziness” in the private sector, specifically large sugar cane landowners.
Addressing Friday’s Democratic Labour Party (DLP) lunchtime lecture on the topic ‘Fiscal Consolidation in Small Developing Economies’ at the party’s George Street, Belleville, St Michael headquarters, Sir Frank Alleyne said Barbados’ sugar industry had fallen below that of other countries because of slothful plantation owners.
“Our problem in Barbados with sugar has to do with the laziness of the large sugar owners. And I make no apology for saying that. Barbados was one of the leading countries in the world in research with respect to the development of new cane varieties . . . and countries from all parts of Africa came here and benefited from that, and they are now far ahead of Barbados,” he said.
The academic expressed disappointment that the country was incurring losses, especially in bulk sugar, while the private sector refused to take the lead in breathing new life into the industry.
“Some countries came in after us and are far higher in the development chain and use the sugar cane to make a wide range downstream profit and we are still operating like the 1700’s. But it is not you or me. We are not responsible for it. It is the people that own the lands,” Sir Frank said.
However, as it relates to the wider agriculture sector, the respected economist said both private and public sectors ought to accept responsibility for the state of affairs.
He said Government should act as a facilitator by “setting the conditions for the private sector”, while the private sector invests in the technology necessary to improve the industry.
The retired University of the West Indies lecturer said while some farmers were adding value on a large scale there were still too many doing just the minimum.
He also said there was need for improved communication between the leadership of the agriculture sector and the Ministry of Agriculture.
“You cannot ask the farmers to come and be involved in a project unless you take the farmer into your confidence. You must be able to give answers to whatever queries. There is no hesitation to that. If you want me to commit my time and resources you have to communicate with me, tell me what it is about,” he stressed.
Stating there was a standoff of sorts between most of those in the large farming community and Government, Sir Frank said this was so because the private sector was taking a more short-term view to the sector whereas “Government is quite rightly thinking about long-term agriculture”.
“I disagree with the farmers that the Government should agree to a year by year decision making,” Sir Frank said.
He added he was also unhappy about how the Ministry of Agriculture was functioning, although he declined to elaborate. (MM)