Independent Senator John Watson believes the local agricultural sector can help Barbados to dig its way out of its current economic downturn.
However, he suggested yesterday that a lot more work needed to go into the development and marketing of an authentic brand of Barbadian products.
“Barbados has such a good name worldwide that we should use it as a brand on our products, so that when people see the name ‘Barbados’ attached to an item they
will associate it with the best quality,” Watson said in making his contribution to the debate on the Protection of Agricultural Products and Livestock Bill, 2017 in the Upper Chamber.
With the country currently faced with a high deficit of five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), a national debt in excess of 100 per cent of GDP and dwindling international reserves of less than $600 million at the end of September, the independent legislator further suggested that the export potential of indigenous products, such as sugar and cotton, needed to be fully exploited.
“If we packaged our sugar as ‘Barbados Brown Sugar’ and promoted it as a healthy product, we could earn 15 to 20 times more for it on the European market than we do now,” he projected.
However, Watson, who was recently honoured by Government for his contribution to the small business sector, pointed out that “one of the problems we have with sugar and cotton is that we only produce the primary product, so other people make the money off the finished goods”.
Expanding on the topic of cotton, Watson, who was awarded a Silver Crown of Merit in this year’s national independence honours, said, “We must start the development process that takes us from just producing the lint, to producing the cordage, which takes it to the yarn stage, then weave it and produce our own.
“Now this cannot be achieved in a year, we will need a 15 to 20 year plan to truly implement this,” the founding president of the Small Business Association cautioned.
He also suggested that only authentic Barbadian products should be allowed to carry the country’s name, while arguing that champagne was not genuine unless it came from that specific region in France.
“Barbados was the first place to ever make yellow hot sauce, and I was shocked to see a product named ‘Bajan hot sauce’ that was made in another country. I am all for Caribbean unity, but we need to protect what is ours first,” the businessman stressed.