Some farms could go under, the head of the nation’s oldest farm body warned today, as they face rising costs linked to a rate increase on commercial water usage.
CEO of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul revealed that livestock farms have already been knocked by the Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) levy that is tacked on to water bills.
He also said he expected the burden to intensify due to rising rates on commercial water.
From May 1, commercial entities will have to pay for excess water which is above the limit. The commercial rate will be $4.66 per cubic meter up to 40 cubic meters and then $7.78 per cubic meter for usage in excess of 40 cubic meters of water, with a monthly cap of 12,000 cubic meter, after which the rate reverts to $4.66 per cubic meter. This tax change is expected to result in a net revenue increase of $2.1 million per month for the Barbados Water Authority.
Paul argued that the November 2018 levy was a burden for local farmers. He stressed that the increase on commercial water rates will have an additional impact on agricultural operations, especially livestock farms.
Paul said: “In terms of the poultry industry, they have to use a lot of water because it is a normal part of the whole hygiene process. Pig farming, for instance, needs a lot of water you can’t use irrigation water for that.”
The BAS head told Barbados TODAY that some farms were operating at “break-even” and the increased bills would send their businesses off the deep end.
Paul said that a request for a tax waiver since the GSC levy was implemented had gone unanswered.
The two-term former Democratic Labour Party backbencher asserted that farmers were not getting the assistance they needed from Government.
He said: “We have to be careful how this is going to pan out. Water is a critical cost in a lot of these farming operations.
“We need to find a way to resolve these issues, in some cases effectively you have had an increase in 50 per cent on water and in addition to the other increases they would have experienced in terms of the cost of fuel and other suppliers to farming sector would have increased costs on them so after going through all those you now have to deal with this one and I am not sure how the sector is going to deal with this cost increase.”
Paul went on to disclose that he intends to write to the Ministry of Agriculture to request a consultation on what measures can be taken to help farmers cope with increased costs.
And responding to the Prime Minister’s call for Barbadians to eat more local produce, James suggested that it was counterproductive as the increased bills would lead to increased prices in local products, therefore, making them unattractive to the price-conscientious consumer.
Paul added: “You are actually putting the farmers at a disadvantage in relation to imported products… Farmers would have to adjust their prices to reflect the increase in costs
“Government has got to find a way if they are serious about Barbadians eating healthy and about supporting our local agriculture sector.”