Chief Executive Officer of Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul believes that the agricultural sector can be integral to the curbing of Barbados’ large food import bill if the country grows its own food and agricultural land is preserved.
“The only way you can assist with the food import bill is if you seek to grow more food. Because truthfully if you take something as simple as sweet potatoes when you have a lot of them around you find that the price goes down to a dollar or two dollars a pound,” Paul told Barbados TODAY, adding that farmers would need to grow their crops more consistently.
“The whole thing about agricultural commodities is to try to improve the yield you get per acre. The other thing you have to do is grow more consistently so you do not have a situation where you have shortages within the industry,” he said.
The former Member of Parliament for St Michael North said that one of the major grievances of the agricultural sector was the way in which agricultural land is being utilized for non-agricultural business.
“One of the big things that we do have a concern about is that too much agricultural land is being taken out of production at the moment. It is one of the big challenges that we face in this country that is also causing us from contributing to lowering the prices we are seeing for food,” Paul said, adding that the sector is facing a lot of hypocrisies with the changes in land use.
“The main problem that we have is the hypocrisy that occurs around the transfer of land from agricultural uses to non-agricultural uses. They are too many instances in this country today where people speculate on the land they buy as agricultural land but soon after they leave it and then they proceed to have it sub-divided.
“We have a situation in this country today that there are areas which people have bought that are basically just laying there. Look at town! Town has a lot of new buildings that are not fully occupied yet we have applications from people who have an interest in construction to come and build in greenfield areas and areas which were previously agricultural land,” Paul said.
“We need to review the whole process and make it more difficult for persons to transfer these lands out of agriculture into other purposes. We should preserve the agricultural land for food and make it less attractive for persons. These are some of the issues that we have to deal with but once we have better access to land we will see an increase in agricultural production,” he said noting that increasing agricultural production was the BAS’ goal for 2019.