Government has earmarked more than 100 acres of fallow land to return to cane production, on the heels of ratoon stunting disease and severe dry weather this year resulting in the lowest sugar yield in a decade.
This revelation was made by Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir who told Barbados TODAY that land at Harrison’s Point and other out-of-production farms under the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) will go back into production. He further revealed that this would also provide for research into more drought-resistant varieties, as well as better growing conditions for cane.
“We have taken the decision, in principle, that farms under the BADMC that were out of production will go back into production and we have already started that process. If you go down to Harrison’s Point you would see that all that area is cleared. Up at St Philip, Mount Pleasant and those areas will be cleared as well; wherever BADMC farms existed and the fields were left to go fallow, we are now clearing them. Each one will carry a trial crop, testing to see which sugarcane would be more drought resistant and in which areas they would grow better,” he explained.
“Different areas grow sugarcane differently. So, you would find that, for example, in St Lucy, some types of cane grow better than others and the same goes for St Philip. We are looking at the high rainfall areas where we can obviously get better yields. We are talking about a sizeable amount – well over a hundred acres – because the first area that we are clearing is 50 acres.”
Weir noted that apart from the expected foreign exchange from the export of sugar, Government also has plans to increase molasses production to facilitate the island’s burgeoning rum industry.
“That conversation is currently taking place; we have already had consultation with the private farmers in terms of the future of the sugarcane industry, but the final decision would be taken after we present to the Social Partnership. We have to also engage the unions in this process,” he explained.
Additionally, the Minister said, other crops would be rotated around sugar on the lands, noting that this year’s cotton yields were also not at the desired levels.
“This year, we have increased cotton to about 300 acres. Last year we didn’t have a cotton harvest to speak about. So that would be a significant improvement. Each year we are going to ramp up until we get to about 2,000 acres of cotton production,” he said.
Weir noted that despite the setbacks in this year’s sugar crop, the industry has shown itself to be resilient.
“All things considered, we still had a pretty substantial yield from the stunted canes which had also suffered from poor husbandry. It was an outstanding performance given the serious challenges with drought and disease. The yield is not what we would want but it was not a bad performance under the circumstances,” he said.