Mission impossible

High water rates making it hard for farmers to survive

PRESIDENT of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) Woodville Alleyne-Jones says with the recent lay-offs, more people, particularly women, have turned to pig farming in Barbados.

Even though the association recorded a 25-30 per cent increase in pig production in December over the corresponding period in 2018, he cautions that with the high water bills and other high production costs, farmers will leave this sector which is critical to achieving food security.

Speaking to members of the media during a press briefing held at the BAS headquarters yesterday, he said it has been a difficult time for local farmers.

According to Alleyne-Jones, “If we are not careful, farmers are going to drop out because they can’t afford to pay. Before it was hard for farmers to make money, but now it is almost impossible to survive. A farmer cannot afford to work for nothing. The bills are there and he has to pay them. If he doesn’t pay them they will cut off the water bill, and we the public are going to suffer and agriculture is going to suffer.”

He explained that countries that are heavily subsidised can afford to sell their products a lot cheaper than local producers.He said if these imports continue agriculture will die.

He told the media that pig rearing requires a substantial amount of water to keep the animals clean. This, he said, has led to exorbitant water bills.

“Other countries subsidise the farmers heavily. We have to find some way to subsidise the farmers. Everybody needs a bit of encouragement. When you know you work out there so hard and then you go to get your pigs sold and more than half your money goes to water and the rest goes to feed. What do you have? Nothing!”

Alleyne-Jones stressed the importance of dialogue and commended the efforts of Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir whom he says has been very cooperative and personally visited him at his residence to discuss the concerns of sector.

Chief Executive Officer of the BAS James Paul said a letter has been sent to the Minister requesting a meeting to discuss the challenges. He said one of the suggestions to be made will be the reduction of the water rates which currently stands at $7.76 above 45 cubic meters.

He stressed that these water rates do not affect farmers across the board, explaining that farmers who have irrigation are not affected. However he noted that approximately 45 per cent of the farmers use non-irrigated water.

“The big concern that we have is that we are going to make imports more attractive to the consumer than they already are, as against local production. I know the government would not want that because we are trying to reduce our levels of imported food,” Paul said. (JH)

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