China is funding Barbados’ efforts to reduce its $800 million annual food import bill with a $40 million donation to develop agriculture and agrobusinesses at the Hope Plantation in St Lucy and Duke’s Plantation in St Thomas.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones and Charge d’ Affaires of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China Zou XI today signed the agreement on behalf of the two countries in the conference room of the Ministry of Education on Constitution Road, St Michael.
Jones said the two projects were expected to come on stream in another 18 months, and would help cut the food import bill.
“That is a lot of money to be spending on the importation of food. So if we are able through the efforts and activities of the training and development of persons to work in this very much needed area we will be able to turn primary products into secondary and tertiary products. This would assist in reducing the country’s food import bill. We have to go forward utilizing the land of Barbados to feed its people and by extension the people of the Caribbean.
“So this is important from our end in the Ministry of Education where training and education is our remit. The land at the Hope Plantation will be doing two things – it will be a training ground for young agricultural persons and it also becomes a ground for production as well. Much of the 40 acres will be opened for production,” Jones said.
Speaking on the Duke Plantation project Professor Leonard O’ Garro of the University of the West Indies told reporters the university hoped to develop the 30-acre site into a comprehensive science and agrobusiness park.
“We will provide significant training. We intend it to become a training area for the entire CARICOM area with respect to agri-business development and entrepreneurship. It essentially would be almost equivalent to another campus in Barbados, but will be customized specifically for agribusiness development and entrepreneurship. In that process too, we have provided significant infrastructure for agribusiness development,” O’Garro said.
The UWI official said some local companies that produce iconic Barbadian products had been invited “to become residents on site so that we can assist in bringing all of the assets required for them to become the world beaters we expect them to become”.
O’Garro said that in addition to focusing on food security, the project would also focus on rural development.
In his brief presentation, Charge d’Affaires Zou XI said that the newly signed agreement was another tangible demonstration of the close relationship between the two countries.
“The agreement will further promote our cooperation in education, agriculture and science, but would bring benefits not only to the development of agriculture and education in Barbados, but also to the younger generation. China remains committed to continue working closely with Barbados in an effort to deepen our pragmatic co-operation in all fields and push our friendly and co-operative relations to new heights so as to better benefit our two countries and peoples,” he said.