Barbados is said to be sitting on a “gold mine”, with semen from locally produced Black Belly Sheep said to be in “great demand” with requests received so far from at least 11 Caribbean countries as well as Texas in the United States.
“We are sitting on a gold mine,” Ena Harvey of the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture said today after initialling a $225,000 agreement with New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Barbados Jan Henderson in support of the local agribusiness sector.
While contending that products from the black belly sheep could provide the basis for “a fabulous industry that can generate employment right across the value chain”, Harvey stressed the importance of the rearing of high quality rams.
“It is very imperative for any national industrial development plan for the Black Belly Sheep to be sustainable,” she said, adding that “sufficient stock, high quality animals and management systems based on locally formulated economic feed rations must be available.
“Without the sheep, none of these authentic 100 per cent value added items would be possible,” she stressed.
Since 1984, the Greenland Livestock and Research Station of the Ministry of Agriculture has been involved in the genetic improvement of the Barbados Black Belly Sheep.
The funds from New Zealand are to assist in transforming the research station into “a modern world class breeding and nutrition centre for the island’s black belly sheep”.
During today’s short ceremony held at her official residence in Sugar Hill, St James, Henderson said New Zealand understood the value of having an agribusiness sector that contributes over 50 per cent of its total export earnings.
“New Zealand is sometimes called a giant farm, but it is a high tech, productive, innovative farm. The livestock sector underpins New Zealand’s agriculture,” she said of the country, which boasts of “a population of 4.5 million people and almost 30 million sheep and ten million cows”.