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Bring the proof, says Minister

by Barbados Today
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Indar Weir

Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir is prepared to take the pig farmers’ case regarding a rise in production costs, to Cabinet.

This week, president of the Barbados Agriculture Society (BAS) Woodville Alleyne-Jones complained that pig farming was on the verge of collapsing under the hefty weight of water and tax bills.

This morning, speaking to members of the media, Weir said while he was willing to take the farmers’ concerns to his fellow Cabinet Ministers, they must provide him with evidence.

“I cannot do so on the basis that you made a generic statement. Oh, the price of water gone up so food is going to go up. Have you done the quantitative analysis to justify what you are saying?

“Where have you taken into consideration the many financial benefits agriculture enjoys currently through the Ministry of Agriculture in terms of concessions, discounts. All those things have to be considered before we make a determination as to what the true final cost would be.

“Yes, there has been an increase in water, and we know this. But we need to understand that there has been an increased cost to Government as well. So let’s have a reasonable conversation about the matter,” Weir said.

While BAS Chief Executive Officer James Paul revealed that there was a 25 to 30 per cent jump in pig production in the month of December, Alleyne-Jones attributed the rise in pig farming, particularly among women, to hundreds of public sector workers being sent home.

The president stressed that the high water bills and additional costs were also threatening the survival of farming in general.

However, the Minister said it would be a sad situation if the increased cost of pork and poultry production forced farmers to charge more for their products.

“I don’t agree that the consumer should have to pay more. But a harsh reality is that we cannot operate on the basis of generic statements being made. We have not yet provided all the evidence, enough time has not elapsed between when the budget proposals were laid in Parliament and now, for us to do a thorough analysis, for us to determine how we can help them,” Weir said.

“I can’t attribute any motive to it other than to say that it is something that we are discussing currently and it is something that we are prepared to look at in a holistic way. I am not about to chase any generic statements about price when in actual fact we don’t have all the quantitative data to support the statements,” he added.

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