A last ditch effort is being made to breathe some life into what remains of the dwindling sugar cane industry as Government comes up with a restructuring plan for the wider agriculture sector.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir said the time for talk was over and it was now time for action.
Without going into detail, Weir said as it relates to the sugar cane industry, a final plan was being worked on to see how best the island could “transition” from the focus on sugar production to other areas.
“Sugar has been on the decline for a long time and I have been working with the farmers to see how we can do a transitioning programme. We have talked about it a lot and we have reached a point now where we can’t talk anymore, we simply now have to act,” said Weir.
“And I met with the sugar cane farmers last Friday and we have agreed that we are going to come up with a final plan for the industry,” he reported.
More information on the plan is expected in a matter of weeks after officials tally the final numbers for the 2019 sugar cane harvest and start discussions on the budding medical cannabis industry.
Earlier this month Central Bank Governor Cleviston Haynes reported that towards the end of June sugar production levels had declined by a whopping 36 per cent, adding that the annual decline meant there was no getting back to the “glory days” of sugar being king in the Barbados economy.
While it was previously forecast that 146,000 tonnes of cane would come from this year’s harvest, it was later scaled down to 137,000.
The original forecast would have resulted in about 11,000 tonnes of sugar being produced, but the revised forecast meant the production would be considerably less.
Weir, who was speaking with journalists on the sidelines of a tour at the Pine Hill Dairy on Wednesday, said he has been meeting with the wider farming community over the past several months in relation to restructuring the agriculture sector.
He said the issues facing the sector could be attributed mainly to approximately 10 to 15 years of “neglect” by the authorities.
“For me to do a repair job now it is going to take first of all a lot of effort and equally a lot of financing in order for us to be able to achieve some of the objectives we have,” he said.
Insisting that the challenges would not be solved overnight, Weir said after coming to office just over a year ago he had to quickly put systems in place to ensure the island’s food security, “grapple” with the development of the medical cannabis industry, and embark on solutions for challenges facing sugarcane and other farmers.
However, he promised that with a new plan for the agriculture sector also in train, “every category of farmer” is to be included.