BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Security Minister, Indar Weir Sunday urged local businesses to identify and pursue lower cost inputs, even if it means a movement away from traditional source markets.
In an statement to mark Wold Food Day, Weir said Barbados is continuing to grapple with the severe impact of climate change on crop and livestock yields, the global supply deficits generated by the COVID-19 pandemic; and the effects of the Russia/Ukraine war.
He said the island is also exposed to price hikes triggered by grain and oil shortages, and that the government is determined to ‘leave no-one behind,” a reference to the theme marking the observance of World Food Day.
He said the theme “Leave no One Behind: Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life”, reinforces the importance of developing food systems that can withstand shocks such as climatic events, pandemics and political unrest, so that there is minimal disruption to the supply of fresh, safe and nutritious foods to all citizens, including the most vulnerable.
Weir said that the government is seeking to alleviate challenges faced by farmers associated with the rising costs of feed inputs and at the domestic level, his ministry is currently involved in discussions with the local animal feed producer “about ways to ensure that price increases are either avoided, or kept at a minimum.
“As a small country, Barbados is a price taker within the global marketplace. It is therefore now urgent, perhaps more than ever, for local businesses to identify and pursue lower cost inputs, even if it means a movement away from traditional source markets,” Weir said, adding “in many cases, my government can assist with identifying cheaper source markets without compromising input quality”.
Weir said that notwithstanding local efforts to boost agricultural output, the Barbados government recognizes that alliances between countries are critical to the Caribbean becoming self-sufficient in the production of nutritious food. Each individual country does not have the requisite natural resources, especially land and water, to produce all it needs.
He said as a result, the Mia Mottley government eagerly embraced CARICOM’s 25×25 vision, which challenges member states to reduce extra-regional agri-food imports by 25 per cent by 2025.
“Since the pronouncement of the 25×25 vision, Barbados signed cooperation agreements with two of its regional neighbours, Guyana and Suriname, in July 2022. The St. Barnabas Accord with Guyana encompasses several areas of agricultural cooperation including crop production, animal husbandry, fisheries and trade facilitation.”
He said the formation agreement for the Strategic Dialogue and Cooperation Platform with Suriname will facilitate partnerships in similar areas.
“Under both agreements, the possibility also exists for Barbadian farmers to travel to these countries to work agricultural lands provided by the respective governments.”
Weir said the government acknowledges the fact that comprehensive agricultural policy also includes legislative and other supportive mechanisms.
“To this end, I am proud to report that in August 2022, Parliament passed the new and improved Protection of Agricultural Products Act. This long awaited piece of legislation will provide local farmers with the necessary recourse to acts of praedial larceny against them, while at the same time require them to take some measure of responsibility in averting such occurrences”