Independent Senator John Watson wants Government to focus on reducing the island’s $500 million food import bill, as it presses ahead with its plans for offshore oil exploration.
Speaking Wednesday during debate on the Offshore Petroleum (Amendment) 2017, Watson noted that oil and food accounted for the bulk of Barbados’ imports, and according to him, it should be easier to cut food imports.
“One of the things about small countries like ours is that we have to be really efficient and effective, so that when we spend a dollar, we must get the best return. And I believe that if we look at the two areas of imports, oil imports and agriculture, I believe that we should make a concerted effort at this time to reduce our food bill, even along with the work towards getting the offshore drilling going.
“I say that Madam President because it is far easier to reduce our food bill than to get our drilling operation going. And for that reason I want to suggest that we look at really doing something about our waste land . . . . And if it is necessary to take over lands that are idle and make sure that those owners of that land are properly compensated, not necessarily in terms of purchasing the land, but the use of the land,” Watson said.
He also recommended the introduction of programmes to encourage young people to invest in agriculture.
“You do not need a whole plantation. Young people can, in a half acre of land or an acre of land, produce substantial crops that would reduce our food bill. And I believe, Madame President, that that is an area that should be looked at very seriously.
“We already have the land and we already have the manpower. I believe that there are enough young people in Barbados now who could be producing much food,” Watson said.