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Insurance plea

by Barbados Today
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BAS head says farmers need coverage; Gov’t may need to step in

By Jenique Belgrave

A lack of crop insurance remains one of the major issues facing the local agricultural industry.

Less than one month into the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, and with the region already seeing three named systems, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul reiterated that Barbadian farmers would like the option of having crop insurance.

“I am sure that if it was available many farmers would like that, but right now it is not available because we do not have any insurance companies at the moment offering it,” he told Barbados TODAY.

He said while the BAS has had several discussions with insurance companies and attempts have been made by some of these agencies to create products for the farming community, none has yet come to fruition.

Paul attributed this to the high level of risk associated with the industry and said the Government would probably have to get involved to get crop insurance off the ground.

“There is a great element of risk involved and insurance companies are going to look at the risk component of crop insurance, and the type of premiums they may have to charge farmers may not make it worthwhile unless you have a government programme that will help to supplement it…and offer a type of incentive to the insurance companies to have crop insurance in Barbados,” he said.

Paul made the comments following the island’s brush with Tropical Storm Bret late last week. He noted that there were no wide-scale losses from the system.

“Some farmers were not negatively impacted but I know some water damage had been done to crops…especially in those areas that would have received a lot of water like St. Lucy, and of course some wind damage to crops like okras and such like, but I cannot say it was widespread,” the BAS head said.

He explained, however, that with crop yields already struggling due to the lack of rain since the start of the year, the loss of some will place even more pressure on the market and impact cost.

Several members of the public have already expressed concerns on the call-in programmes about the price of sweet potatoes hitting $8 per pound in some markets.

“Right now, we are trying to keep up production and any destruction to crops right now, you will find that supplies are very tight, like watermelons and sweet potatoes….

“Our sweet potato production is not where it should be at this time of the year or even for the year so far. And we would like to see some more rainfall because the aquifers are not full…. Let’s face it, it is reasonable to expect that the prices of sweet potatoes are where they are because we are not getting the level of production we are used to getting because rainfall is a large issue,” Paul said.

He added that while the recent rains have been very welcomed, especially with projections for low rainfall for the rest of the year, the question remained as to what extent it would help going forward into the upcoming months.

jeniquebelgrave@barbadostoday.bb

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