Vegetable producers in the east have now joined farmers in the north complaining that water shortages are destroying their businesses.
Farmers at the River Plantation Land Lease Project in St Philip, told Barbados TODAY that after harvesting the current crop they will be forced to abandon the plots until the rains return. The wet season begins on June 1.
Farmers explained that while they have been experiencing water shortages on the project for years, the water levels at the pond which feeds the Barbados Agricultural Development & Marketing Corporation’s (BADMC) pumping station, is critically low and drying up.
Anthony Singh said he has already lost more than $50,000 to drought. Now he is in a race to save his current crop of tomatoes to prevent even more losses.
“We don’t get consistent water, but it is worse this time around and right now we are losing all of our crops.
“We would like to plant but all of the time we keep getting losses. Between last year to now, I have lost about 50 to 60 thousand dollars,” he said.
Antonio Pilgrim said he is unable to re-plant his cucumbers even though market prices are quite good. “Right now, I have cucumber seeds at home burst and ready to plant but I can’t because they will just die like the last set,” he said.
With the BADMC’s irrigation pump out of action, farmers have invested in their own pumps to drain the remnants of the pond, but this exercise is proving quite costly, as these individual pumps can utilise as much as $80 per day in fuel, depending on the farm’s water needs.
Some growers have resorted to the even costlier exercise of using their own connection to the Barbados Water Authority supply just to see their current crop to harvest. Others are trucking water from their homes.
But like their counterparts at the Spring Hall land lease project in St Lucy, the St Philip farmers revealed that they too are being pressured by the BADMC to pay their outstanding water bill arrears and quarterly lease payments.
Singh told Barbados TODAY: “We don’t get water from the BADMC pump, but we are still getting a bill and we can’t afford to pay the bill because we are not getting any money.
“We have written to the BADMC telling them that we cannot pay because of the pressure that we are feeling right now.
“Right now, I have a contract to supply melons to a supermarket but I can’t plant any and I have to import melons to keep that contract.
Singh revealed that even during the months that the BADMC is unable to provide water, there is still a $20 monthly service charge that must be paid.
He added: “[BADMC] sent letters to us this week telling us to come in make arrangements to pay them by the end of this month. We can’t afford this right now because we just not making money from the farm.”
On Monday, Spring Hall farmers told Barbados TODAY that they are growing increasingly worried that critically low water levels in the wells that feed the irrigation system, are threatening their yield and would inevitably result in the scarcity of certain crops on the market.
Farmers also complained that they are being threatened with eviction by the BADMC, as several of them have been unable to pay their bills due to low production, which they claim is as a result of the long-term water supply issues.