Barbados should brace for some impact in its agricultural sector due to the worsening global COVID-19 outbreak, said Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir, who revealed plans to increase the production scale here which could be impeded by the virus’ spread.
Weir said: “Barbados does not have the scale at this point in time to be impacted by what is happening in China, but it certainly can impede our progress in getting production up to the extent that we can export.
“So we might be a little fortunate at this time, but for our long term plan and our mid-term plan, it will certainly impede what we can do in terms of scale for export.”
Weir was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of regional agricultural ministers at UN House this morning.
Backing up Weir’s perspective was his counterpart from St Vincent and the Grenadines Saboto Caesar who told Barbados TODAY that Vincentian agriculture was already feeling the impact.
He explained that the Vincentian fishing industry has already taken a hit, as transporting goods to China, the country hardest hit by the virus, is now proving difficult.
The Vincentian farm minister said: “We have already witnessed a reduction in export of fish and fish products because we export significant quantities to Hong Kong.
“At the moment the international carriers going into Hong Kong are not as readily available as they used to be.
“So it is already impacting upon us, but it would be interesting to see over the next six weeks how it unfolds with regards to the impact on trade
and the movement of food.”
But Weir contended that while Barbados has plans to scale up its agricultural production in the medium to long term, the Government is immediately focused on local food security.
“I am focused on how we can get back to the production levels of 2006, production levels that have declined massively over the last ten years.
“Our focus now is on growing those 4-6 weeks crops like lettuce and tomatoes that have been on the decline and moving agriculture to the stage where we have more greenhouses because production will increase in those environments.”
Weir said he first needed to organize the local market to ensure that there are no gluts or shortages of any products.
He said: “We need to move farmers to the stage where they are not duplicating and unnecessarily creating competition for each other.
“We have to identify which farmers would do what crops so that we can have continuous scale all year round.
“If we can replicate this, we can ensure that we have consistent supply for the local market as well as the tourist sector.”