BAS HEAD SAYS FARMERS CAN’T AFFORD TO REDUCE PRICES OF FRUITS, VEGETABLES
By Sheria Brathwaite
The Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) says it is nearly impossible for farmers to sell their produce at lower prices to work in tandem with Government’s healthy eating thrust.
Chief executive officer James Paul said the cost of inputs was just too high, adding that “just like any other business, farmers still had to make a profit”.
He was responding to suggestions from the public that the cost of fruits and vegetables should be reduced as Government sought to encourage healthier eating habits to reduce the high rate of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The BAS boss said that would only be feasible if the Government implemented more subsidies in the agriculture industry, which he said the administration may not be able to handle at this time.
“That is not something within the purview of the farmers. All a farmer could do is try to ensure he or she could produce a product at the most reasonable cost possible and then try to make a return on it.
“Government only subsidises some arms of farming in terms of the rebates they offer. So a way in which it can be done is if Government was able to offer rebates on fertiliser purchases, herbicide purchases and so on that are critical inputs in the sector. This is the only way I could see that happening, as in that way farmers would be able to keep the cost of production down, keep down consumer prices, and still make a profit,” Paul said.
He added that the cost of inputs have gone up significantly, “by as much as 400 per cent in some cases, and while farmers may have absorbed some of them, they cannot continue them indefinitely”.
“Like any other business in operation, if costs continue to go up, at some point in time it is going to push your operation above the price that you charge for the commodity in the market. So you have to try to ensure that there is a gap between what you charge consumers and the price you operate at,” he said.
Earlier this week, Professor Justin Robinson told Barbados TODAY that Barbadians wanted Government to introduce policies to make healthy food affordable in the same manner it appeared to be making unhealthy foods and drinks more expensive, or implement some form of incentive to encourage people to eat healthier.
However, Paul said that it would not be fair to put that responsibility on farmers as many were already facing deficits in their businesses trying to hold strain for consumers.
In fact, he reiterated that farmers should be paid more for their products.
Earlier this week, the BAS head said farmers have agreed on the need to establish a bargaining unit to lobby for increases in the prices of locally-grown fruits and vegetables, some of which have been stagnant for decades.
He said while farming inputs have increased by as much as 400 per cent, there had been no commensurate increase in the prices consumers pay for fruits and vegetables.