The Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) is exploring a system to compensate farmers when their crops or livestock are damaged or destroyed during bad weather.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) James Paul said on Monday that an insurance initiative was under consideration, so farmers could get back on track as soon as possible after impact but it would be best for Government to be involved.
“Insurance is something I know that we are looking at. We got some information together recently. The insurance companies are looking at it but the most viable form of agricultural insurance is where Government has to have some form of involvement in underwriting certain things,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“One of the things that we need to do is to make sure these persons coming forward are legitimate farmers,” Paul added.
“What it also does is that those farmers who are legitimate farmers, it gives them some level of confidence that they can proceed and plant. But I think insurance is something that can make a very big difference in terms of trying to ensure that we can continue to have continued cultivation of crops.”
The BAS CEO expressed relief that no major weather systems have impacted Barbados so far this Atlantic hurricane season which ends on November 30, even though there was a lot of rain last weekend.
“At least so far we have not had any major strikes. Over the weekend, we had quite a bit of rain which, of course, has had some impact on crops such as tomatoes. Hopefully, if we can avoid any persistent, prolonged, hard, heavy rains, I think that would be good,” he said.
Paul also expressed concern about the emergence of pests that adversely impact livestock.
“What we are seeing are other pests, especially in terms of livestock, such as fleas. So farmers have to do what they can to protect the animals from these parasites which are very plentiful during the hurricane season. The main thing is trying to avoid the heavy rains and, of course, the heat is another factor because the heat can actually burn the leaves of some plants. There are some weather events which hopefully we would not have to suffer too much from during this period,” the BAS head said.
Meanwhile, Paul complained that many farmers were experiencing cash flow problems and attributed some of this to part-time producers who engage in price-cutting tactics.
“The expenses of production have gone up. It is disappointing when you see persons purporting to work in the industry…hobby farmers who don’t depend on the industry for a living, that drop their prices lower than the full-time farmer. What they do is to give the consumer the impression that the price of the good can be lower than it actually is…. When a person who has a handsome income, otherwise, reduces the price on a batch of chicken it is no problem to him. But it is a completely different affair when you have a chap who has everything invested in there.
“So, of course, you would hear people say you can charge that much lower for a chicken or pork and, in some cases, fruit and vegetables, not knowing that this gentleman does not depend on this activity for a livelihood, but that there are others who depend on it for a livelihood and have to charge higher prices in order that they can actually live,” said the farmers’ representative.
Paul added that these “hobby farmers” use their incomes as leverage – a luxury that other farmers do not have.
“So . . . they can actually charge low prices as against other farmers who actually have to face the full expenses because that’s what they do. So it is not easy in the farming community,” he said. (EJ)