In answer to complaints raised by local farmers, Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick today revealed that stricter provisions were coming under the Agricultural Protection and Livestock Act in a bid to protect domestic food production from foreign food imports.
However, speaking during the launch of the Barbados Agricultural Marketing and Information System (BAMIS) at his ministry’s Graeme Hall, Christ Church headquarters, Estwick warned that World Trade Organization rules currently prohibit countries from refusing “willy-nilly” to grant import licences.
“The way we may have to manage that going forward would be to link it to the recent Agricultural Protection and Livestock Act, where once you are selling an item you have to certify that sale with a receipt,” Estwick explained.
“For persons who are importing, they have to have the Customs document with them and then we will have to create a provision where that is not permissible to put on the system,” he explained.
Conceding that the farmers’ concerns were merited, Estwick also said the new web-based platform, known as BAMIS, would go a long way towards reducing the need for importers to apply for licences to bring in food substitutes.
“For the first time in Barbados, once you are a registered farmer . . . you would have the opportunity to register on the agricultural commodities trading platform of Barbados. What that allows you to do is to put up on the Internet basically the products you are producing, how much you are producing and what is the price of it,” he said.
At the same time, Estwick said, the online system allows the farmer to interact directly with a potential buyer or agent, thereby reducing or eliminating import needs.
During today’s launch, an agricultural stakeholder raised concerns about the growing monkey population and the danger these animals posed to food crops and other property.
Asked what authorities could do in this situation, Estwick said, he too was concerned, but at the moment Government’s hands were tied.
He noted that Barbados had signed on to international conventions which deem the Bajan green monkeys an endangered species, and as such they must be protected.
“That is a matter that falls squarely under the Ministry of the Environment and we have been in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment simply because of some of our international conventions that we have become signatories to . . . conventions that protect what are considered endangered species. That species is considered an endangered species,” Estwick said.
“So because of that, you simply cannot decide to go out there and shoot all the monkeys. The fact of the matter is that one of the ways we are looking at with the Ministry of the Environment is to see how we can manage numbers . . . have the University of the West Indies (UWI) carry out a classical ecological study so you can determine the population [size], their dynamics [and] the demographics so you can manage the population over a period of time,” he added.
He said the aim of the data which will emerge from the study was to assist Government in reducing the monkey population over time.