By Kenton X. Chance
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — A senior Barbados government official says Caribbean countries do not need technology to build bombs and rockets in order to attain the status of developed economy.
But Esworth Reid, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management said the agricultural sector is crucial to the Caribbean attaining developed world status.
“Any country from among us that would have taken the leap to adopt appropriate Government policies and to seek out, through regional cooperation, appropriate technologies to combine and use the natural and primary resources it has efficiently and effectively and to produce critical products that would serve to make that country self-sufficient or close to being self-sufficient,” Reid told participants attending the one-week Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food forum that ends here on Friday.
The forum, which is being held under the theme “Link — Learn – Transform” is organised by the Technical Centre For Agriculture and Rural Cooperation ECP-EU (CTA), the Barbados Agricultural Society, the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
It aims to promote synergies between the Caribbean and Pacific to spur agri-food development and seeks to harness cross-learning between policy-makers, private sector players and farmers’ representatives as a way of harnessing innovative solutions that can benefit the agri-food sector in both regions.
Reid said the only constraint to using agriculture to attain developed nation status “is that whatsoever that country is doing must be sustainable and you must keep out of internal and external conflicts.
“I will go further and say that no developing country can effectively attain a sustainable growth path or developed economy status unless it has a vibrant and sustainable agricultural sector.
“Just take note of most developed countries. They have some of the most vibrant and developed agricultural sectors and more so, most of them are practically self-sufficient in basic food, both at the level of the primary product and at the top of the value-added chain in manufacturing,” he said.
He said that in Barbados, the government has recognised the critical importance of the agricultural sector to economic growth and has been pursuing a number of programmes, projects and ways to stimulate and grow the sector and to make it sustainable.
“This is despite the numerous and severe challenges that the sector had to face over the past thirty or so years, which resulted in the relative contribution it made to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) contracting from as high as 30 per cent in the late 1970s and early 1970s, to under 3 per cent today.”
He said the challenges to using agriculture to achieve developed country status “were many and severe and we are still faced with such challenges.”
Reid said this is why Barbados has designed and submit to the cabinet of ministers, a well-structured national policy on agriculture to carry the sector forward.
He spoke of the challenges that member countries of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping and former colonies of Europe face with respect to the removal of the preferential treatment they once had in the European markets.
“Beside this challenge — and I can only speak specifically of Barbados — we are faced with the severe challenge of praedial larceny which in some ways has been putting undue stress on many genuine farmers and forcing some of them out of business.
“Further to this, as a small island state, we are starting to feel the effects of climate change and this phenomenon has been impacting negatively on the agricultural sector due to long periods of drought,” he said, adding that the situation is compounded by the nation’s vulnerability to the many pests, crops and livestock diseases that may cross into the Caribbean region due to movements in wind, weather systems and the seasonal migration of animal species such as birds”.
He said that only recently the alarm was raised in Barbados about the possible threat of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza from birds migrating from the north on a path through the region, which has the potential to wipe out the nation’s poultry industry.
Reid, however, said that despite these challenges, the Ministry of Agriculture in Barbados has been doing all in its power to ensure that the agriculture sector rejuvenates itself, survives, grows and is sustainable. This is bearing in mind the recognition of its critical importance to our country’s economic growth and development.
In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines our agriculture sector has been all but destroyed over the last 14 years.
I am glad that at least some politicians come right out and recognize what is going on. Looks like Barbados has the same problems as SVG. Our problem is that the government in SVG does not really care about Agriculture. They care about Tourism and going into debt.
It is like playing cards: You have to play with the hand that was dealt to you. SVG was dealt Agriculture, but we play as if we were dealt Tourism, that is why we have a failing economy. Looking back….we should have put much more into Agriculture in the past 15 years. We should have looked at what SVG needed to move forward. We should have made the right plans for the distant future and implemented those plans and never looked back. Instead we have a wishy-washy leadership that only wants to borrow and spend on things that make him look good.
Mitchell was terrible for Agriculture. He was at the helm when Arrowroot was destroyed, When Poultry was destroyed, when Coconut oil was destroyed, when Sugarcane was destroyed, and Ralph’s idiot Montgomery destroyed Banana. Now all we have is Ginger and a few other minor crops, and the present government is too stupid to know how to support any industry, let alone Agriculture.
It is utter historical and economic nonsense to argue that agriculture is crucial to the Caribbean attaining developed world status, as I have shown in a comparison of rich and poor countries around the world (https://www.iwnsvg.com/2014/12/08/why-caribbean-small-farming-should-be-allowed-to-die/) and as many reknowned scholars have shown for centuries.
When Esworth Reid says that Caribbean countries should try to “produce critical products that would serve to make that country self-sufficient or close to being self-sufficient, he shows a painful ignorance of David Ricardo’s 1817 law of comparative advantage which, in the case of Barbados made sugar king for over two centuries until it was displaced by the new industry, tourism, beginning in the 1950s, again based on the law of comparative advantage.
Only the poorest countries in the world are self-sufficient in food production because of a combination of poor governence, a lack of exportable or desirable internal resources (like white sandy beaches), and insufficient funds to import food from other countries. Even the United States which is a huge agricultural producer, consumer, and exporter, also imports a lot of food from other countries. Why? The law of comparative advantage.
As I have said, these agricultural conferences are a cynical waste of time and money. Mr. Reid’s ignorant comments proves this assertion.
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