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Sugar or cotton?
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, will carefully weigh the evidence to determine the path for Barbados’ agricultural sector – a revised sugar industry or a sea island cotton industry.
Addressing the question of what will become of the sea island cotton sector in Barbados at the final Ministry of Agriculture National Consultation held at the Alexandra School, Speightstown, St. Peter on Monday night, Minister Estwick said that the Agriculture Ministry has to be very careful in its decision.
Minister Estwick said discussions are ongoing to create an integrated cotton industry in Barbados, from growing the cotton locally to producing and marketing a finished product.
He said the discussion is taking a little longer because out of the 106 000 acres of land, 53 000 acres of that land is considered as arable land and the plan was to take 27 000 acres out for sugar.
“If we are to concentrate, therefore, on redesigning or rescuing the sugar industry, we have to be very careful how we plan out which industry is going to be the industry that we have as the primary production industry at the base ...” said Minister Estwick.
“The Ministry has to be very careful that we make sure that the decision we take, that there is enough arable land to drive it as well as to drive food production in Barbados ...
“I am going to tread very cautiously and make sure that the decision taken by my ministry is going to be one that is based on evidence and two, whichever side we land on, whether it is going to be a modern sugar industry that is going to have the capacity to drive electricity production, ethanol production, special sugars ... I have to make sure that the facts, consultations and evidence given to the Ministry supports that decision.
“If it is that we can have a more profitable value added product out of the cotton side, the evidence has to bear that out and we would have to determine how many acres of cotton we actually need to plant on an annual basis,” Minister Estwick continued.
He said that while he has the information on how many acres is needed for sugar and the projected yield per acre based on studies done in Barbados over the last three to four years, he does not have that information at this point of time for cotton.
The Agriculture Minister noted that Barbados has been having significant problems with the yields of cotton and is being surpassed by other countries in the Caribbean in terms of the amount and quality of cotton.
According to him, there is a lot of agronomic work and genetic evaluation that needs to be done to get the cotton industry to the point where the type of output is at the level it should be.
“We are not there at this particular point of time. Based on what I am saying, I have to wait until the evidence shows me clearly which path I have to go down on, because I only have 53 000 acres of arable land in Barbados to work with and I need 27 000 to 30 000 acres for a revised sugar industry in Barbados,” he stated. (AR)