Farmers declared Friday that the extended COVID-19 lockdown, dubbed a “national pause” by Government, will cost them dearly in lost crops and spoiled poultry.
Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul said all options are being exhausted in an attempt to help farmers sell their produce and reduce their losses.
The initial lockdown was scheduled to last from February 3 to 17 but on Monday, Prime Minister Mia Mottley told the public that the desired results had not been reached and it would be extended until February 28.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY, Paul said the 11-day extension would be problematic.
With only essential businesses allowed to operate and vending prohibited, there were very few avenues for farmers to move their produce, he noted.
Paul said: “The first thing is that there will be spoilages because there are some commodities that farmers have to harvest on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, and if they aren’t harvested they will spoil. So crops such as okras and lettuce are a challenge because when these crops cannot be harvested at the time they are ripe they spoil.
“What we are trying to do from our end is to work with the supermarkets. We are going to on our own probably from next week, try to see if we can set back up the Farmer’s Store to do home deliveries to see if we can help to offload some of that produce. It’s going to be a difficult exercise in terms of trying to offload that produce that’s going to be available.
“When it comes to the issue of meats and poultry there can be some difficulties too because again the current supply chains are compromised and we can expect during the coming weeks a buildup of stock. The restaurants are closed, they are not buying and they account for as much as 25 per cent of the consumption of chicken in the country. Also too, the normal volume of chicken and pork are not being sold so there will be some buildup so farmers will be under some stress during this period and we are hoping of course to try to mitigate that.”
The BAS chief said he was pleased that farmers had risen to the occasion and did a commendable job in providing produce for the care packages programme.
But he said he was unaware whether the programme would also be extended due to the lengthened lockdown.
The BAS is also keeping a close eye on businesses to ensure they don’t use the “pause” as an excuse to import products that can be sourced locally, Paul said.
He said he is aware of one such product being imported and urged business owners to use local produce whenever possible.
Paul told Barbados TODAY: “I want to make the point that we are hoping that people do not use this as an opportunity to try to sell cheap, subsidized, imported goods to the public at the expense of goods that are produced here in the country. We are continually on the lookout for this.
“I saw some evidence where you had some cheap milk being imported from Malaysia and that is being pushed to consumers instead of the locally produced milk.”