|Feature Address by Minister of Agriculture at the Awards Ceremony of Agrofest 2010|
|Written by Mark Byer|
|Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:16|
Feature Address by Senator the Honourable Haynesley Benn,
Minister of Agriculture at the Awards Ceremony of Agrofest 2010
at Grand Barbados Beach Resort
on Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 6:00 p.m.
Masters of Ceremonies, President and Members of the Board of Directors of the Barbados Agricultural Society, Permanent Secretary - Ministry of Agriculture, Chief Agricultural Officer, Members of the Organizing Committee, the various Sponsors, Exhibitors and Judges of Agrofest 2010, Specially Invited Guests, Awardees, Members of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is indeed an honour and a pleasure to be in your presence this evening, as we meet to celebrate the 6th Anniversary of the National Agricultural Exhibition, Awards Ceremony - Agrofest. I wish to thank the organizers of Agrofest for inviting me to address you at this Awards and Prize Giving Ceremony. I cannot describe the pride that I feel at seeing the level of participation and exuberance exhibited at this year’s Agrofest. It gives me confidence to state that agriculture in Barbados is alive and well.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as the drought situation and global economic crisis continue, we must endeavour to identify and explore areas for survival and to increase economic activities that are viable and competitive and that can contribute to sustained agricultural production. The crops we have traditionally grown, the foods which we have eaten for decades and the livestock we have reared have helped to determine our identity as a Caribbean people. We must therefore seek to preserve those desirable and healthy aspects of agriculture through festivals like Agrofest.
I am honoured to be here with you at this special ceremony to recognize those persons who have contributed significantly to agricultural sector and indeed to the development of agriculture. Let me offer special congratulations to those receiving awards this evening and thank the organizers and sponsors of the event. As you all are aware, Agrofest is organized by the Barbados Agricultural Society, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Pinnacle Feeds who have been the principle sponsors since the re-introduction of the National Agricultural Exhibition. The company is now the sole Platinum sponsor of Agrofest and has willingly provided financial, technical and administrative support through the years. I wish to thank them for the continued contribution to the event and by extension the agricultural sector.
The main focus of this year’s exhibition was to educate the Barbadian public on environmental issues facing the nation and to provide information on how to implement measures which we need to embraced to address these issues. The theme Green Today, Sustain Tomorrow, presented a timely reminder to all strata of our society. Important issues such as food security and sustainability of agriculture and how they can be addressed can green technologies were highlighted at the exhibition. The public of Barbados was made aware how agricultural activities can enhance environmental health and societal well being through the careful management of our lands.
Agrofest continues to present patrons with opportunities to experience all the facets of Barbados’ agricultural sector in a relaxed and comfortable environment. And if I could gauge by the crowd I saw in attendance, then without a doubt Agrogest 2010 was an unquestionable success. I am told that approximately 55,000 people attended the show this year and there was great interest and excitement among the students of this country’s primary and secondary schools.
The mandate of Agrofest is to sensitize Barbadians to the value and benefits of the agricultural sector. This is intended to create a society, which supports and appreciates the concept of food security, while recognizing the fact that the sustainability of the sector depends on the establishment of linkages with other sectors of the economy. Agrofest seeks to strengthen links, which are vital to Barbados’ efforts at attaining food security through increased local food production, the reduction of a high food import bill and the enhancement of the quality of local food. Agrofest also highlights career opportunities available to young people in the agricultural sector.
The exhibition, a premier family event, provides another opportunity for the vegetable and fruit farmers, livestock farmers, fishermen, and other persons involved in horticulture and other areas to come together to showcase a variety of high quality local products, promote the use of new and improved appropriate technology for crop production, demonstrate the close relationship between the agricultural sector and other sectors, and to demonstrate good environmentally friendly practices. It is also an occasion to highlight to all, especially the youth, the many opportunities, which are available for career choices and advancement within the industry. Agrofest also affords overseas investors and guests of the exhibition the opportunity to show off their products while seeing first hand the best of Barbados’ agriculture and related sectors.
Again this year a number of overseas government agencies and ministries participated in the three day agricultural exhibition. Among those participating was the Guyana Marketing Corporation, representatives from the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Agriculture and the president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society.
This year the number of schools taking part at Agrofest School’s garden competition increased over last year, despite the prevailing drought situation. Although some of our usual entrants were unable to participate in the competition this year, the entry of new schools into the competition made up for this shortfall. The quality of the work produced by the schools continues to be of a high standard and some schools still continue to show great effort despite the availability of limited resources. We want to encourage more schools to get involve next year.
The entries for the adult kitchen garden have increased over last year and this competition continues to grow slowly. A number of the gardens were very well maintained demonstrating the joy, pride and dedication home gardeners took in their work. This is one area that has scope for considerable development, though, especially since the quantity of entrants is not restricted by the physical availability of space at Agrofest. We would therefore like to encourage more householders to start planting and to show off their skills in this competition and benefit from gentle exercise of home gardening while producing vegetables for home consumption.
In the fruit and vegetable category the quality of vegetables continued to be of a high standard but it is the one area of competition that is not explored enough by farmers and householders. There were some 100 entries in the vegetable classes of which just over 50% were judged. However, the quality of the exhibits continued to improve.
There were some marked improvements in the livestock section in terms of the up-grading of the housing for the bulls. Over the last few years continuous challenges with containing these large animals led the livestock committee to seek out more secure housing for these animals. With respect to the livestock shows, challenges attending the dairy sector led to reduced numbers in this category, but this was the only livestock category to show a decrease in participation. Agrofest 2010 saw the Beef show holding its own in terms of numbers, the Market Rabbit classes were filled and for the first time ever it was necessary to do prejudging in the market pigs category because the number of entries exceeded the available housing. Increases were also seen in the numbers of Dairy goat entries as for the first time those numbers reached the mid-thirties. The Sheep show continued to be the premier event among the shows both in terms of numbers and in interest. With 130 animals entered in the 15 classes, this year’s show saw some classes fielding as many as 18 entries.
My Ministry wishes to thank the Organising Committee, all the partners, sponsors and exhibitioners for making Afgrofest 2010 a success. I also wish to thank the exhibitors for their participation, sponsors for their sponsorship, the organizers and judges for their hard work and the general public for supporting the event. We hope that everyone enjoyed the events that were planned by the BAS and is looking forward to 2011 which should be bigger and better than this year’s.
Please continue to enjoy the remainder of the evening.
I thank you!