EDITORIAL: Revive Agriculture via AgroFest
NOWADAYS Agriculture in Barbados does not feature much in the economic assessment of the country’s economy. Compare that absence to what goes on in other regional countries and immediately see the importance which those states attach to Agriculture. For example, at the recent news conference which the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) held, it was stated that Agriculture will be one of the areas to drive economic growth in Grenada in 2019. Jamaica, a country that everyone touts how well it is doing under an IMF (International Monetary Fund) agreement, has a vibrant agricultural sector, and the same thing can be said about Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia, and so on and so on.
But what about Barbados? Yes, there are still several farmers trying to keep the mill rolling, but their efforts are not sufficient to register on the economic radar. So year after year it is tourism which is driving economic output on the island, and sometimes construction, international business, and wholesale and retail. Even when debate on what is happening in that sector gets so overbearing, someone in authority comes out and reveals plans that there is still a commitment to the industry. All of this is seen in the context of this coming weekend when the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) hosts its annual agricultural exhibition known as AgroFest in Queen’s Park.
AgroFest has become a major event that attempts to sensitise Barbadians about the importance of agriculture and to highlight the excellent work which those in the farming community are doing. For the thousands who visit Queen’s Park on each of the three days of the exhibition, they are not known to be disappointed from attending the event. You come away from the exhibition with the full realisation that those who go there with their exhibits enjoy what they are doing, and indeed they say it every year.
On numerous occasions, visitors to Queen’s Park have been seeing things they did not know were being done, even with limited support and poor access to market, in the country. Yet one is forced to ask why is Barbados not doing more in agriculture while promoting a lot of what is being done to the point that they become major sources of economic growth, as was the case when sugar was king and occupied the place which Tourism now commands.
Barbados is not blessed with enormous resources and with the right blend of policies, we can get out of the present economic problems by inviting more investments in farming and other agricultural pursuits. If done properly and if there is a commitment, the country will see the benefits in terms of jobs, better food security, and either earning or saving foreign exchange. Those in charge have to take the bull by the horn and get this country back on course as an agricultural centre. Too much of our land is lying idle and apparently just waiting for speculators to move in, carve it up and then sell it off as house spots. Like the other Caribbean countries, Barbados has to get its act going for an improved agricultural sector. Let us therefore use AgroFest as a base from which to broaden the scope in this very important segment of our economy.