It’s soon time again for the island’s premier national agricultural exhibition – Agrofest.
Agrofest, which takes place in Queen’s Park on the last weekend of February, usually attracts a large number of local and international patrons, with exhibitors displaying a variety of livestock, vegetables, flowers, plants, craft items and educational items. At Agrofest, patrons get the unique opportunity to see local high quality products/services, and to experience all aspects of Barbados’ agricultural sector in a relaxed and comfortable environment. There are also interactive educational workshops, demonstrations touching on plant care and flower arranging, as well as talks highlighting the journey of agricultural products from the farm to the table. This is also the perfect opportunity to meet local vegetable and fruit farmers, livestock farmers, fishermen, as well as persons involved in horticulture and other areas of agriculture. One area of Agrofest that needs to be emphasised more however, is that of the display of more locally produced products. The Barbados Agricultural Society which hosts Agrofest, has recognised this need and has also expressed its hope that Barbadians will this year see more locally produced goods at the national agricultural exhibition. Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), James Paul has acknowledged that whilst the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) has always taken the lead in showcasing locally produced products, there is room for more exhibitors who want to showcase their own homegrown or homemade items.
“I can tell you that right now we are hoping to have more locally manufactured, more locally produced goods at Agrofest. It has always been our (mission) over the years, to try and make sure of it,” Paul has been quoted as saying.
“Last year we had some locally produced flour that was there, because the BADMC, they have always showcased locally produced products that are made from local inputs. So that is always there and we of course want to encourage other persons who might be producing local items to let us know and of course we are willing to accommodate them,” Paul further stated. Whilst we wait to see if more Barbadians and Barbadian companies will display more local goods, perhaps we need to have some incentives to encourage more persons to go in this direction. A complaint made each and every year about Agrofest, is that at times some of the vendors there have too many “foreign goods” for sale.
That said, of great interest this year at Agrofest, will be the launch of the result of Canada’s PROPEL Project, in which farmers in Barbados and other eastern Caribbean countries have been able to obtain support to increase the quality and quantity of fresh locally grown, fruits and vegetables and subsequently broaden links with buyers. PROPEL is an acronym that stands for, Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages and the project has been implemented through the World University Service of Canada.
According to High Commissioner of Canada to Barbados, Marie Legault, it is a $20 million programme that Canada has put in place to link more than 28 000 farmers from the region from eight countries in the region, including Barbados, to make sure that they can have better linkages to buyers in the region, to decrease imports in the region and increase exports to the international market.
The showcasing of that programme at Agrofest should prove interesting because this is more of what we want to see, agriculture getting a boost so farmers and other players can advance themselves and have more local produce to offer.