by Marlon Madden
Farmers across Barbados are in line to have their operations insured. Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul told Today’s BUSINESS he has started discussions with operators in the insurance industry to achieve this.
The move comes on the heels of devastation suffered by some farmers here during the recent ash fall from the La Soufrière volcano in St Vincent in April, the freak storm in June and Hurricane Elsa at the start of this month.
While Paul was unable to say what the level of damage was on the sector from any of the disasters, he explained that farmers across the island loss hundreds of birds, chicken coops and some crops, which could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.
He explained that farmers were generally averse to reporting their damages, with many of them “having a sense of hopelessness that anything will actually be done”.
“That is one of the issues. The other thing is that because of the sponsors you don’t have the time to wait. That is why I encourage farmers to contribute and work with the BAS so that difficult times like these if we have surplus funds, we can help farmers. It is not a significant amount but if we can provide some seeds to help them get back in that is a start,” said Paul.
“One of the things the BAS Board recently took the decision to do is work with a particular insurance broker in this country to see how we can widen farmers insurance. In other words, to see how we can insure agricultural properties more.
That is a programme that we are working on to see how we can get farmers insurance into this country more. Hopefully we can get it done soon. It is a project the BAS is committed to and we will pursue it,” he pledged.
Stephen Layne, President of the Barbados Egg and Poultry Association, expressed sadness at the losses experienced by the farming community during the recent catastrophic events, insisting that insurance was something that must be done.
“We have to do it. It is going to be costly but as a group we have people negotiating with some insurance individuals. It is important because see the damage. Some people had insurance and others didn’t have insurance,” said Layne, the First Vice President of the BAS.
He told Today’s BUSINESS insurance was only a part of the challenge for farmers after a disaster, explaining that the time it normally takes to get things back in place could take several weeks and even months.
He explained that while some of the bigger companies had insurance and they would be able to replace their broilers (birds produced for meat production) within about six weeks, it could take up to six months “to get layer birds replaced and up and laying again”.
“Even if they don’t die, they are very fickle, like milking cows. If they go through stress they will not produce. The same thing goes with layers,” he explained.
In any event, Layne gave the assurance “we have adequate number of eggs going forward
into Christmas, we don’t have to worry”.
One of the island’s main egg producers did lose a significant number of birds and coops following the category one storm. It is also estimated that about 75 per cent of smaller producers had to carry out some repairs and put birds back into production.
Several farmers had also reported damage to mainly fruits and vegetable crops, following the passage of the disasters.