BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – The Barbados government is urging farmers to take advantage of the worst drought in the United States in five decades and called on nationals to consume as much of the food grown here.
A statement from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management noted that recent reports indicate that corn production was expected to drop by 11 per cent from last year’s with yields 23 per cent below normal.
In addition, soya bean yields are due to decline by nine per cent below the 2011 harvest, and wheat yields will also decline.
“The shortage of these commodities on the international market has already prompted other countries such as Russia to consider imposing export bans on their supplies,” the statement said, adding that the situation had already resulted in increases in food prices in some countries, with the future price of corn anticipated to increase by as much as 60 per cent, as stocks shrink to their lowest levels since 1973.
“There is global alarm that there could be a repeat of the 2008 food crisis because data shows food prices have jumped six per cent last month. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) Food Price Index, which measures monthly price changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 213 points in July, up six per cent from the 201 points reported in June,” the statement noted.
It warned that the situation threatened to increase prices of food to levels never seen in Barbados before, and urged all citizens to act urgently.
The government said it would be “expediting the distribution of planting materials, seeds and other inputs in order to stimulate local food production”.
In addition, the Green Paper on the sector recently received by the Ministry outlines specific actions to be taken in the short to medium term.
These include the establishment of a market information system to determine supply and demand for local food; the establishment of a wholesale market for farmers; the establishment of a farm school and a model farm to demonstrate new technologies; strengthening farmers’ organisations and working with the Ministry of Tourism to promote the consumption of more local food in the tourist industry.
“The situation presented by this world food situation brings into the focus the importance of agriculture in the world today,” the statement said, noting that while there were those who believed the agricultural sector should be abandoned due to its decline and the removal of the preferences for sugar in the European market, it was still fundamental to the country’s food security.
“No matter what industries we develop in this country, no matter how developed we may become, we still have to eat and a dependence on others to supply our food is not a sensible strategic option.
“We are, therefore, convinced that our agricultural sector is essential in helping the nation combat the effects of the global economic crisis, and the impending world food crisis,” the statement added.