Notes From The Margin

September 25, 2007

A Controversial Viewpoint on Agriculture in Barbados


We on the margin heard a very different position on Agriculture this week that came up in conversation. We’re not necessarily in agreement with it, but it did make us pause for thought.  The point was put forward in a private discussion on the future of agriculture in Barbados, particularly with regard to the current bidding war going on over Barbados Farms and the response by the CEO of the BAS Mr. James Paul which basically centred on the issue of food security. .

The argument put forward by this individual made three observations:

1. Sugar Cane is a cash crop, as such the issue of food security should not be confused with the production of sugar cane.

2. Land under sugar cane production, does not contribute to food in Barbados but to money earned by the export of Sugar.

3. Barbados sells sugar to the EU at a loss, as our production costs are higher than the preferential price which we get for the sugar.

Given the above, he then asked the following

“If putting the land into Golf Courses or some other development, would earn a higher economic return per acre than sugar,  would it not make sense to put the land into that?”

 On the issue of food security (which we raised) the response given was two fold:

1. How much of the food consumed in Barbados is currently produced here? Not very much.

2. Government should aggresively incentivize the investment in intensive agriculture such as hydroponics etc. . This he argued would actually increase local food production even as the number of acres under cultivation decreased.

Our friend made it clear that he was not advocating placing all of Barbados under Golf Courses, but that Sugar Cane was actually a bad use of a limited land resource and that it needed to be examined without the emotion that usually colours these discussions.

We’re not saying that we agree with the guy,  but the argument was sufficiently thought provoking that we felt it was worthwhile presenting here.



  1. […] Notes From The Margin recounts a conversation he had concerning the future of Barbados' agriculture industry. Share This […]

    Pingback by Global Voices Online » Barbados: Future for Agriculture? — September 26, 2007 @ 12:14 pm | Reply

  2. NFTM, persons who raise the issue of “food security” as a justification for engaging in agricultural activity often fail to define what exactly they mean. It cannot be denied that Barbados can produce a larger amount of agricultural products than it currently does, thereby reducing imports of similar products and/or substitutes. However, unless local production is cost competitive with imports, such production would result in a loss of consumer welfare.

    The talk about “incentivising” investment in intensive agriculture seems to be too vague to elicit a constructive response. What kinds of incentives are contemplated, on what basis would they be justified, and how would they be funded are important considerations in making what are ultimately decisions on resource allocation.

    The argument that sugar cane is a bad use of land resources seems to be focus solely on private costs and benefits. However, the fact that the costs of sugar production exceeds revenues, may be indicative of a very narrow interpretation of costs and revenues which do not take account of social and environmental factors. In other words, the analytical framework may need to be broader, to reach an informed conclusion that demonstrates an understanding of wider socio-economic considerations.

    In short, those who offer off-the-cuff analyses and solutions to problems are probably as emotion-based in their conclusions as those who reject them.

    As to the alternative uses to which our land resources could be allocated, a case can be made for chosing activities that generate higher benefit-vs-cost returns. However, as the person whom you quoted seems to recognise, there are signicant problems in determining which land should be reallocated to non agricultural activity, and which should not. Unfortunately, since the majority in land in Barbados is under private control, the impact of such decisions can generate major problems in societies like ours.

    Comment by Linchh — September 26, 2007 @ 6:06 pm | Reply

  3. Beautiful photograph

    Comment by Anonymous — September 29, 2007 @ 12:25 am | Reply

  4. My name is Sabrina Murphy and I am from St Vincent and the Grenadines. I am presently working on the Island of Canouan with CCA Limited who is the Island developers. We are presently working on setting up a hydroponic farm and would like to know if you provide training.

    Sabrina Murphy
    Hydroponic farm Manager
    CCA Limited
    Canouan Island
    Email or
    Mobile 784- 531-5109

    Comment by Sabrina Murphy — May 8, 2008 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

  5. sugar cane is now used in the production of plastics.

    check this out and more stuff like hydroponics and aquaponics in my forum

    Comment by Ready-Done — June 21, 2009 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

  6. hello sabrina how have you been, and how is curtis, its been so long,
    this is phil
    you can reach me at

    Comment by Anonymous — June 8, 2011 @ 7:49 pm | Reply

  7. I’m very pleased to have found this website. Definitely enjoyed reading and I have bookmarked to check out new stuff that you post.

    Comment by Elider — November 7, 2011 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  8. Fantastic post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don’t notice this. You must continue your writing. I am confident, you have a huge readers’ base already!

    Comment by General Hydroponics System — December 14, 2011 @ 12:09 pm | Reply

  9. for a project based on agriculture of Barbados this site is very helpful
    thank you

    Comment by Anonymous — April 22, 2012 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

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