The country’s chief advocate for farmers has identified the current drought and the ongoing disposal of farm land as obstacles to food self-sufficiency.
And chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul has called on Government to give agriculture an additional boost.
Paul made the comments in response to a recent announcement by Prime Minister Mia Mottley that a greater push was being made towards achieving food security.
In revealing a two-year $2 billion economic plan last week, Mottley said it would include 750 additional acres being brought into cultivation under the FEED (Farmers’ Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive) programme.
But while Paul said he welcomes more attention being paid to farming, the drought was cause for serious concern.
Paul said: “It is welcomed that there are plans to pay attention to agriculture. One of the challenges that agriculture does have at this point in time is the whole situation in relation to climate change and we are seeing this in terms of the fact that right now water is a critical factor and the lack of water now is actually compromising the production of certain commodities.
“If we cannot get water on time it affects the growth of some produce such as sweet potatoes which need water in their final stages to develop.”
The CEO also contended that land set aside for agriculture was being used for construction and development.
He said: “If we intend to expand the agricultural sector we have to pay attention to the fact that we have to stop first of all the alienation of agricultural land. We are seeing too many instances where agricultural land is being alienated then taken up and put into development.
“What it is doing too it is actually compromising our groundwater resources, our groundwater aquifers which are necessary in order for us to get water.”
Paul said the time had come for players in agriculture to be treated similarly to those in tourist and be provided more assistance.
“The hotel sector has benefited tremendously over the years and still continues to benefit from government support and aid, while on the other hand the agricultural sector has had to pay even third string in terms of any benefits coming to the sector, so we would hope to see some kind of reversal as far as that is concerned,” he said.