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.