Caribbean missing out
The Caribbean is not taking full advantage of many opportunities available through the agriculture sector.
Former Minister of Agriculture, Haynesley Benn, highlighted several areas where the region could put itself in a path of economic success.
“The global trade in herbs has a value of US $12 billion. The Caribbean has high quality spices, [but] the region has a very low share of this global business,” he said while pointing to the rich land and water resources available on islands like Dominica, Suriname, Guyana, St. Lucia and St. Vincent especially.
“Barbados can consider wider production of aloe which pharmaceutical companies have great potential for. We have one here called Aloe Barbadensia, which is one of the best in the world,” Benn stressed, while pointing to its use in soaps, lotions and extracts.
He also mentioned the strong linkages to be developed between the agriculture and tourism sectors.
“Our Caribbean tourism organisations continue to boast of higher numbers of tourists each year. Who feeds these 20 million people in the Caribbean? If we were to calculate the number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners consumed by these visitors and translate that into thousands of tonnes of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy products, seafood, bottled water, eggs, we would be amazed at the value of foreign exchange being leaked out. Consider the tremendous business opportunities for the Caribbean region to supply fresh and authentic Caribbean food for its visitors.
“We must ensure that tourists sample Barbados’ Black Belly Lamb, Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish and the national dishes of Guyana, St. Vincent, Grenada, St. Lucia etc. We have the capacity to provide enough food from the Caribbean sea,” he continued, while speaking at the Democratic Labour Party’s Pickled Politics and Souse series recently.
Benn further told those gathered for the topic “Agriculture 2020 and Beyond – Food or Medicine?”, “Barbados and the Caribbean are at a defining point in our history where we must determine whether we will continue to import our food supplies or whether we will improve our agricultural system and attain an improved level of food security.”