A new food import substitution plan aimed at protecting local agricultural jobs, boosting production and cutting the whopping import bill, is currently in the works.
The Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC), the state agency responsible for facilitating food imports, has revealed that a number of locally produced crops have already been identified as substitutes for foreign items.
While not identifying all the crops, Chief Executive Officer Shawn Tudor said the experiment would begin with cabbages and onions.
“You just can’t say ‘we import X amount of cabbages, let’s just do it without coordination’ . . . . There are ten crops that have been identified that we import a lot of, that we spend a lot of money on these, and that can be easily produced here in Barbados, given our soil, the availability of irrigation and ability to manage the crops,” Tudor told Barbados TODAY.
“There is a significant increase in vegetable production [and] more can be done. The importers need to speak with us more often. We do have an information system, we do know what is planted wherever in Barbados, we know the expected harvesting dates, we have estimates of the yields and the importers should really give us a call, find out what is well, rather than rushing ahead to import,” he added.
The state agency is also monitoring meat imports, with a view towards increasing local consumption of mutton from the Black Belly sheep by up to tenfold, the agricultural official said, adding that a programme was being discussed with stakeholders and an announcement would shortly be made on the outcome.
However, Tudor made it clear there would be no wholesale ban on imports because Barbados must comply with World Trade Organization rules.
Nonetheless, he said importers here could work with the BADMC to ensure local farmers had a consistent and broader market
“The importers should give us a call, find out what can be made available and work with us, so we can work with the local farmers to get these vegetables made available for their supplies and for their contracts,” Tudor stressed.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul has been complaining bitterly about the importation of produce that can be produced here, including chicken wings, and more recently, coconut water.