President of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul has welcomed news that the delayed cess on milk will be implemented soon.
However, he has cautioned authorities to ensure it is done properly.
“It is a good thing. I think the Minister [of Agriculture Indar Weir] is showing some initiative in that area – the fact that they are moving forward. I want to compliment the Minister in terms of the move there to get that cess straightened out. I think if it is properly done, it can actually be a fillip to the industry; it can stimulate even further expansion of the dairy industry and I am sure the dairy farmers will feel more comfortable as a result of it,” Paul told journalists at a media conference at the BAS’ Grotto, St Michael location on Friday.
“So, I really want to encourage the Minister as far as that is concerned, and I think the sooner that cess can be implemented the better it will be for the dairy industry and farmers in general.”
Revenue from the long awaited cess on milk, which was promised several years ago by the former Democratic Labour Party administration, would help finance the operations of local dairy producers. The original plan was to apply the cess on some milk products at two rates – a five per cent rate on milk containing no less than 60 per cent of liquid cow’s milk, and ten per cent on all other milk substitute products.
On Wednesday, Minister Weir announced that the Mia Mottley-led Government was moving full steam ahead to get the necessary legislation in place. He said he had already met with dairy farmers and a committee had been set up to gather information and come up with recommendations for the new legislation that would make provision for the cess.
During the media conference, Paul also told journalists that farmers were being affected by the drought facing the country as well as water outages.
However, he said it was not severe and most farmers had systems in place, including irrigation and water harvesting, to deal with it. Others, he said, were hesitant to plant because they were uncertain how long the situation would last.
“In terms of water outages in the sector, I don’t think that those in the irrigated areas have suffered as badly, although in some cases some have because there has been what we call rationing of water,” he said.
“There are farmers who have invested in water harvesting devices in terms of trying to make sure that they have access to water consistently, but there is a limit to that because in any prolonged drought you will have a situation where you will not be able to store that amount of water,” Paul added.