Chairman of the Board of the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC), Orlando Marville (second left) and Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, cut the ribbon to officially open the BADMC’s Farm Shop Annex.

Improvements being made to agriculture

Barbados now has an agricultural commodities trading platform.

Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick said that this trading platform, which is currently being tested in his Ministry, will put buyers and sellers in direct contact with each other through the use of information communications technology. He noted that the initiative has been working “reasonably well”, but there is one hiccup in respect of the slow speed of emails between buyers and sellers, which he indicated is being addressed.

He made the disclosure while speaking yesterday morning at the official launch of Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation’s Crop Value Chain Services – Pack House, Cassava Cultivation Equipment and Farm Shop Annex, at the Fairy Valley Plantation. He stated that once that issue is fixed, it will be ready to be fully operational.

“This is the first time in the country that an agricultural commodities trading platform, being internet based, allows any farmer in this country, once he is registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, to be able to uplink what he has to sell directly in real time and offer that particular item for sale directly to any buyer in the system, regionally and extra-regionally,” he stated.

Additionally, Dr. Estwick said that on the demand side of the equation, supermarkets, manufacturers, hotels and the like can also uplink what agricultural or fisheries products they desire. He explained that the creation of that connection between the farmers and the market place, will transform agriculture in this country. The agriculture minister made the point as he said that the initiative will help to strengthen and/or build linkages between agriculture and other sectors in the economy. He also noted that due to the absence of a platform to allow for the trading of agricultural produce, those linkages could not be developed.

With that in mind, Dr. Estwick said that with that platform should come a greater reliance on locally grown produce and by extension, a reduction in imported produce. He said gone will be the days of purchasers complaining that they cannot get the product, volume, sustainability and qualities of what they want, as the buyers and sellers will have an avenue to better communicate about their needs and the supplies available.

“All of those problems will now be resolved… I don’t want to hear a supermarket say to me that they don’t know where to find yams, because if there are 5 000 yam producers in Barbados, somebody is producing a yam you want and it is the same thing for chicken, pumpkin, squash, etc. We now have a tool to eliminate this whole notion that you cannot find the agricultural produce in Barbados,” the minister said.

He made the comments as he said that this platform will be linked to the Pack House the BADMC has established. He said the latter facility will now allow for the grading of produce and will become the hub through which the purchasers obtain produce. This, he said, will address the sustainability issue that the manufacturing sector has long complained about.

“They always complained about sustainability of supply and they always complained about quality issues. Well I am hoping that after the next month or so, when we have fully operationalised our packing facility and have put in place the sort of systems to effect quality control in and quality control out, that that issue will become an issue of the past,” he said.

Estwick added that a market information system has also been created to allow the relevant authorities to connect with the producers, consumers of agricultural produce and Customs Department.

That system, he said, will show real time the various prices of agricultural commodities in Barbados at any particular market, and also show previous prices to allow for comparisons. This initiative has been done, he said, with the assistance of the European Union.

“[It] allows the Ministry’s extension officers and the BADMC’s extension officers to work out in the field and feed back the information, so we know what is going to be planted, how much, when it is going to be harvested and what is going to be the price point that will be put in regards to the market information system. And also that same price point will follow through in regards to the agricultural commodities trading platform,” the Minister indicated. (JRT)

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