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Food terminal to help stave off food crisis

by Marlon Madden
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Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir has warned that Barbadians will face even higher food costs and higher levels of food insecurity in the coming months as the war in Ukraine drags on, if action is not taken.

It was against this background that he said the Government was moving full steam ahead with the establishment of the highly-touted Barbados/Guyana food terminal to be constructed at Lears, St Michael.

Disclosing that the facility which will serve as a hub to transship agricultural produce between the island and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states will cost roughly $32 million, Weir said February 2023 has been set for the groundbreaking ceremony.

He told journalists on Friday that the design stage was well advanced for the purpose-built facility that will accommodate about forty-five 20-foot containers at any time and have a state-of-the-art packaging line.

“The designers were in Guyana this week to settle the final specs for the food terminal. Once we are back we are then going to go to Town Planning to get approval. I have set next year February as the target for when we will turn soil to start the construction of the building there,” Weir announced on the sidelines of day two of the four-day Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) Trade and Innovation Expo at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

“They are telling me that it would take about 24 months. I think if we take a modular approach to this we can deliver it in about 16 to 18 months. I am starting the process [of] making sure we can get all of our agricultural produce . . . even if we have to use a temporary storage facility through Export Barbados (BIDC),” the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security said.

A part of the plan is an agro-processing component that is to be done through an investment out of Trinidad, starting early next year. Weir said a state-of-the-art abattoir.

“Prospectus for the food terminal and the abattoir should be completed by the end of this month, and investors will have an opportunity to look at that prospectus to determine where their investments are going to go,” he said.

Stating that a link between manufacturing and agriculture will help the region to stave off a food crisis, Weir said the region would not be able to cope much longer should the war in Ukraine continue indefinitely.

“The Russia and Ukraine conflict will lead to further disruptions in the global supply chain and you can see increased spikes in the cost of oil and essential grains used in the agricultural sector. The feed is an issue; the grains that are imported would present tremendous challenges for the manufacturers.”

“I do not have a lot of confidence in what is happening with that conflict with Russia and Ukraine, given the fact that Putin has demonstrated clearly the more we dig in the deeper he is going to go,” the Agriculture Minister said.

“The reality is that we now have to look further at the importance of food security in the region so that we get a clear understanding of where our leaders are going with this,” added Weir, as he reminded that CARICOM was on a mission to significantly reduce the region’s food import bill, which was estimated to have climbed past the $700 billion mark last year.

He said it was critical that Barbados and the other regional states push ahead with the food terminal.

Weir explained that the facility will play a critical role in the region’s ability to produce and store a variety of crops that are currently being imported.

“We are going to be replacing them between Barbados, Guyana, Suriname and Roraima in northern Brazil, and we will then be able to pass all of these items through the food terminal, either for storage [or] packaging,” he said.

Weir added that the food terminal will help to create new entrepreneurs and opportunities for locals to invest, help lower the food import bill, save foreign exchange, and build food security.

He said once the region is able to meet domestic demands for businesses and individuals, it can look to export and supply the cruise industry.

“I have met with one of the cruise ships already. They came here to do an assessment of what is possible within agriculture and how we can do the provisioning and we have discussed a number of things we can work on,” he said.

The Agriculture Minister also disclosed that Barbados has shipped 131 black belly sheep to Guyana and another 870 were to be shipped to complete the quota by the end of this month. (MM)

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