The island’s biggest agricultural exhibition, Agrofest, has not escaped the ravages of austerity measures, as two state agencies have pulled sponsorship, its organizer has said.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society, James Paul, revealed that the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) and the Rural Development Commission (RDC) have opted out of this year’s exhibition, which urges Full We Pocket – Eat Local.
The development prompted the farming community’s leader to call for greater private supporter for the popular 15-year-old fair.
RDC, one of Agrofest’s biggest sponsors, hosted up to 40 small, micro and medium-sized exhibitors annually.
Paul said: “We have lost sponsors. The Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc was a very good sponsor and we also don’t have the Rural Development Commission.”
The CEO disclosed that the BAS was reaching out to RDC-sponsored exhibitors.
He said: “We have reached out to them and said let us work with you to see how we can assist.”
The head of the nation’s oldest non-governmental organization also shared that the Culinary Challenge for Secondary Schools was forced to rebrand due to a lack of sponsorship.
The competition, which takes place on February 22 at Queens Park Steel Shed, originally featured live cooking demonstrations by students, led by head judge chef Peter Edey of the Dining Club.
This year, Paul said, the food will be prepared beforehand and presented to the judges.
Paul told Barbados TODAY: “We are suffering here from a lack of sponsorship. I think we need to have some kind of collaboration with the private sector.
“A lot of people see these competitions but what they do not recognize is the amount of preparation that is needed especially for the children to get on stage to compete .
“The problem for the last years is that we have not been able to get sponsorship for the event to the extent that we would like.”
The BAS chief said he remained optimistic for Agrofest’s 15th edition, which has drawn nearly 300 exhibitors in the weekend event.
He added: “We have tried to ensure that we keep things at a level that would not deter the ordinary person from coming. We try to ensure that we push the fact that Agrofest is an event in which we are trying to promote small business and also encourage the ordinary Barbadians to recognize the importance of supporting people in local agriculture.”
He said he anticipated a tightly contested livestock competition for cattle due to the abundance of entries, although adding that the numbers for sheep and goats needed improving.
Paul said: “A lot of our farmers or sheep and goats have had some misfortunes this year. Agriculture is something that doesn’t go right every year but one or two of them did have some difficulties but we are hoping that as time goes on that we will be able to get some more.”