Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul is imploring dairy farmers, who invested $1.1 million last year in the import of heifers to bolster the dairy industry, to hold strain on Government’s promised loan rebate.
Last October the BAS secured financing from RBC Royal Bank on behalf of the six farmers for the importation of 194 cows from the United States.
The farmers, who were required to deposit 20 per cent of the loan sum, were also given guarantees from the Ministry of Agriculture that they would earn rebates on the purchase of the cattle.
However, upset farmers have told Barbados TODAY that eight months later they were yet to receive one cent of the promised rebate, with no visible evidence to date to suggest that Government intends to keep its promise to them.
“We have done what was required of us to push local milk production, we have kept our part of the bargain and it is only fair that Government gives us what was promised or at least shows us some respect by telling us what is going on,” one irate farmer said.
In response, Paul, the Member of Parliament for St Michael West Central, said Government simply did not have the funds to honour its commitment to the dairy farmers at this time. However, he assured that the Freundel Stuart administration was in no way shirking its responsibility to them.
“The Government has had some cash problems and what we have arranged is that the rebate would be repaid over a period of time. When we receive the rebate, we would notify the farmers that their balances have been adjusted by the amount paid.
“It is not going to happen instantly. The rebate would be paid over a period of time. Let me emphasize that it would not all be repaid at once but as we receive it, they would get it,” he added.
While stating that he understood the anxiety of the farmers, Paul reminded them that had it not been for the facilitation of the BAS, “they would not have gotten the loan in the first place”.
“The money that was spent is just 20 per cent of what cows cost. All of them take out the loans but the capital that came for the financing of cows came from Government, so you can work the numbers from there. If they went to the bank as individuals they would not have gotten the loan to purchase the cows they have. So basically we facilitated,” Paul told Barbados TODAY.
The BAS executive acknowledged that Government should have done a better job on communicating the delays to the parties involved, but contended that there were teething problems with the pilot project.
“We understand that farmers are anxious, I wouldn’t use the word impatient but we needed to report to them as to what is happening. I do want to say that this is the first in a series of programmes geared at trying to build capacity in the agricultural sector and right now the dairy farmers are the first to benefit from it and we anticipate that other farmers would be able to benefit from this special facility,” Paul stressed.