Local farmers are being forced to remain in business and operate at a disadvantage despite several major challenges including increasing costs brought on by Government’s Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) levied through their water bills.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul said this afternoon that because of the massive sums of money invested in their businesses, farmers have no choice but to stick it out even in the face of skyrocketing water bills.
“For instance, you have had water bills from some farmers of $8,000 which have now gone to $12,000 and sometimes more. A lot of the farmers see the imposition of these taxes as being unfair. What is happening is that a farming enterprise is being charged for a service that he does not use…because for instance, when you look at a poultry processing plant…in no way does it use services being provided by the Sanitation Services Authority (SSA), yet, of course, it has to pay for it,” Paul told Barbados TODAY.
He also noted that a tractor which ploughs fields does not use the roads because it has to be transported by another vehicle. “It [tractor] is not meant for on-road use. Yet, it has to pay for maintaining the roads,” he stressed.
The BAS boss is arguing that if farmers are to be competitive in their own environment, their peculiar situations must be considered when Government is introducing new taxes or legislation.
“I think that consideration has to be given to easing the sector, to recognize the fact that if we put these impositions on the farming sector, what it will do is ultimately carry up the cost of production which places our local producers at a disadvantage against products that are coming from overseas,” Paul added.
The former Member of Parliament in the Democractic Labour Party (DLP) administration suggested that the alternative options of business for farmers are limited in Barbados.
“I think that they will make it despite the challenges that are there. These are people that have invested considerable sums of money,” he said, adding that he hopes Government continues to ensure imported produce does not push local farmers out of business.
Meanwhile, Paul has given the assurance that consumers will have access to adequate supplies of poultry and vegetables for the Christmas season.
“Farmers always gear for Christmas production. For instance, in the area of poultry, we know that farmers are making replacements…and I don’t think that the consumers will have any difficulty accessing their meats at Christmas,” he assured.
Paul said the only area of concern may be the possibility of crop damage due to large amounts of rain. “November is turning out to be one of the wetter months of the year. What we find is that some of the rainfall is heavy. So we do not know whether or not as a result of that rainfall if there is likely to be crop damage,” he said.
The spokesman said however, that the rains are not affecting the entire country at any given time and therefore any possible damage did not apply to all crops.