Wild and silly imaginations.
That is how Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir has described concerns by the Democratic Labour Party that acres of plantation lands formerly owned by defunct insurance company CLICO, would be sold as residential property by Government.
In fact, the Agriculture Minister has said, that those lands and many others would be dedicated to agricultural development as Government attempted to reverse ten years of DLP “inactivity” in the vital sector.
“I don’t know how you could turn agricultural land into a [residential] development without first involving the Ministry of Agriculture. We have a Chief Agricultural Officer who is highly trained and makes informed decisions on these things before they even reach Town Planning,” Weir told Starcom Network’s Down to Brass Tacks’ Wednesday programme.
“If the information is being skewed in any way that the CLICO land is being sold and people are going to subdivide them and all of that, I think the conversation is way ahead of what it should be, because the worst thing we would want to do as a people is to make wild and silly imaginations and come to conclusions on things on which we have no basis.”
On Wednesday, the DLP’s spokesperson on agriculture Andre Worrell expressed “deep concern” about the recent announcement that the lands could be used for infrastructural development at a time when the country desperately needed to reduce its food import bill.
“We are urging the Government to have some discussion and to be open and transparent with the people of Barbados on their plans for the CLICO plantation lands in St John, St George, Christ Church, and other areas. We are urging farmers not to sit idly by and let these lands be sold,” he said.
In response, the Minister noted he was always keen to engage the public but did not have an ‘appetite’ for people who “have a belief and are attempting to turning it into reality”.
Instead, he declared Government was preparing to revive lands which are currently growing ‘river tamarinds’ in the Belle, St. Michael, Harrison’s Point in St. Lucy and the Scotland District to significantly improve the bounty of the sugar industry and other crops.
“I am simply giving the calm assurance that we are doing everything we can to bring the lands under the BAMC under production. We are also working with the private farmers… of every single type and class, so that when we look to bring back agriculture to its rightful place in Barbados, we will have a situation where all of those lands that are currently growing river tamarinds will be back into production and the process is starting this month,” Weir declared.
“We are starting by cleaning up Harrison’s Point and going to the Belle where we are going to remove those river tamarinds and put it at Port Vale Factory to be used as burning stock when the factory is grinding during next year’s sugar harvest and we are planning to start the crop on time next year.”
He stressed that part of reviving sugarcane production would coincide with the restoration of eddoes and increases in yams and sweet potatoes.
“I am trying to reverse this whole ten years of inactivity and inertia and only God knows how I feel about having to say this, but it is the reality. This isn’t one, two or three years of work. This will equally take us all of ten to 15 years,” Weir said. [email protected]