There is enough food in Barbados for months ahead as the country braces for the fallout of COVID-19, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir had told Parliament.
He declared that Barbadians need not worry about food supplies since his ministry had a detailed plan to ensure demand would be met.
The Minister said: “I have heard that during the panic many people were concerned about food security and there are right to be concerned and I want to say to all Barbadians that I got this.
“I got this because Barbados is known to be a net importer of about 80 per cent of the food we consume but that does not tell the full story.
“Barbados imports around 20 to 30 per cent of primary agricultural products.”
Weir said farmers were well-placed to meet the food demand.
He told the Lower House: “We have farmers who are currently growing in Barbados 369,378.06 kilos of crops which are the short term crops, those crops that are grown within a four to six weeks period.
“Now that speaks to us being able to provide all of the vegetables that we grow within a six weeks period and without having to look to imports.
“These are things like cucumbers, squash, lettuce, cabbage, chinese cabbage, beans.
“You will find we get a lot of the long beans that are highly sought after particularly in the hospitality sector.
“In 2019, Barbados produced 304,000 kilos of beans and we expect to wrap that up to 504,000 kilos by the end of the year.
“This is not projected this is what it is actually in the ground. Our production of sweet potatoes are also up.
“Things like yams, plantains, bananas, water melons, onions, pumkins, cassava are also being produced.”
The Minister explained that the average Bajan stands to benefit from the fallout in the tourism industry.
Weir said: “Let me assure all Barbadians that we are self-sufficient in production of the six weeks crops Barbadians consume.
“You will have a fall-off in demand in the hospitality sector simple because you will now have less visitors coming to Barbados.
“Within another two to three weeks you will see more hotels reduce or downsize their operation to take advantage of the opportunity not to either do refurbishment or change in business models etcetera.
“So this is the time when all the food that is consumed in Barbados will fall to locals.”
A Match meeting with farmers and poultry producers formalised the food plan, the farm minister said.
Weir told the House: “We invited the farmers of Barbados to the Ministry of Agriculture on March 11 to sit down plan and strategise what we are doing. They are all on board with us.
“We have identified with them in the Spring Hall land lease project and we are expected to help them ramp up production in other things.
“I created a list of all the existing farmers in Barbados and what they are growing so I can be absolutely sure that we have all the crops and produce that we need during this short time period.”
He continued: “We have targeted what would be a possible protein source we looked at chickens and rabbits.
“These are the ones you can produce quickly. I have met with the Poultry producers of Barbados and we have in principle agreed that with excess capacity that they now have on their hands to make sure that this poultry production is used by local consumption because of the reduction of demand in the hospitality sector”