IN another 12 days the 2020 edition of AgroFest will be held at the Queen’s Park. AgroFest is a three-day exhibition which has become a very popular event as the organisers attempt to promote not only the activities and the associated events which are held to make up the show, but to engender the thrust the sector requires to give new meaning to Agriculture.
At the end of 2019 there was nothing significant for the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados to report on when it came to the agricultural sector. Like construction, and manufacturing, agriculture continues to fare badly in a country where there is no shortage of hands and interest to help lift the sector.
Nowadays everyone is talking about the need for the country to achieve positive economic growth and represented across a number of economic sectors. The story that is being told is that tourism or construction, or both must lead the growth the country is seeking . This ought not be the case since once that happens Barbados is short changing itself with its economic development model.
It the meantime we have a food import bill which allows consumers to relish other people’s products some of which can be grown here. Even in the projections for this year nothing was said about the sector.
AgroFest showcases agricultural production and just about everything that farmers in this country are doing to promote agriculture. Whether there are livestock or foodcrop farmers, or those engaged in retailing agricultural commodities it can be seen from their participation that they want to be there.
Every year thousands of patrons visit the three-day exhibition and they too add variety to the programme thus signifying how vital the exhibition has become to the Barbadian public.
Unfortunately, Barbados seems not to be creating the template to bring this industry in from the cold and to have it performing similar to what other countries across the Caribbean are doing with their agriculture.
Grant you, the interest is there among many people as they see opportunities in farming and an avenue for them to earn money in an environment which calls for serious action.
Quite recently several farmers and other prospective ones have signalled their interest in going to Suriname to become involved in farming which gives the lie that people are reluctant to do agriculture.
For a more sustained farming programme to take off in Barbados, the authorities have to be serious about it by giving farmers the tools to get on with the job. It can be a worthwhile exercise once the farmers know that their efforts will be rewarded and they are able to find markets for their produce.
It is no point cultivating and when it is time to go to market they find a lot of cheap imported goods on the market thereby putting the farmers at the mercy of importers.
So they must be protected from imports which can be frustrating to the domestic producers. The farmers also want tough action to be brought to bear on crop thieves who are in the habit of reaping what they do not sow much to the annoyance of those who are cultivating food crops and vegetables.
AgroFest must be linked to agriculture and the two must coexist.