REPOSITIONING THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR –
A BACKGROUND DOCUMENT ON A WHITE PAPER FOR AGRICULTURE
The Purpose of the White Paper on Agriculture
- We are all well aware of the changes that have been occurring around us globally; changes that have significantly challenged the ability of governments around the globe to assure their populations of adequate supplies of safe and nutritious food. These occurrences have caused us to realize that it cannot be business as usual and we must therefore seek to identify strategies that will assist us in securing the food and nutrition security of our nations.
- Since 2007/2008, Barbados and the world as a whole have been impacted by three (3) crises which have come in quick succession, all of which have impacted the food and nutrition security of nations:
- a food crisis, which was a shock to the global food system and resulted in food riots in over twenty countries as a result of the reduced availability of, as well as reduced access to food;
- a financial and economic crisis that contributed to reduced levels of disposable income and the decreased consumption of food, especially among the poor. This increased their vulnerability to malnutrition and other health issues, given the fact that a large share of their household resources is allocated to food purchases.
- an energy crisis, which led to increases in freight costs, as well as the cost of producing agricultural commodities, leading to the increased cost of food.
- Barbados has not escaped the effects of these phenomena, which have also resulted in a significant reduction in disposable income for many consumers throughout this country.
- During 2011, countries around the world were again faced with a situation of soaring food prices. By mid-2011 food prices had reached levels that were even higher than those reached during the food crisis of 2008.
- The forecast is that these latest increases in food prices will not be a temporary phenomenon, being as the result of structural changes based on increases in the price of oil, increased transportation cost, climate change and the use of agricultural products for biofuel production.
- It is expected that World demand for the food will continue to increase as population growth and urbanization continues, especially in India and China.
- It is therefore not anticipated that food prices will return to levels experienced before the food crisis of 2007/2008, but that in fact, there will be greatly increased volatility being experienced over time.
- According to a recent CARICOM document, Barbados’ food import bill was US $16.4m in 1968, increasing to US $53.5m in 1978; to US $80.7m in 1988, to US $133.8 in 1998 and to US $265.2 million in 2008.
- Furthermore, statistics available from the Agricultural Planning Unit indicate that the food import bill was US $326.89 million in 2011.
- These figures suggest an increasing dependence on imported food at the expense of locally produced food.
- A renewed emphasis on securing a greater level of self-sufficiency in food production can however help us reduce the growing food import bill, which can also assist in improving the balance of payments position of the country.
- Countries worldwide are increasingly beginning to appreciate the true contribution of the agricultural sector to food security, health, energy, employment, the preservation of the environment and economic development as a whole.
- They are furthermore recognizing the need to place increasing emphasis on maintaining strong and vibrant agricultural sectors in order to ensure the food security of their nations.
- G8 Countries have been supporting the mainstreaming of food security into national development policies and strategies keeping agricultural development, food security and nutrition at the forefront of the political agenda. Since January 2008, G8 Leaders have committed over US $23 billion to ensure global food security.
- “Food security and sustainable agriculture” has been identified as one of seven priority areas for discussion at the Rio+20 Conference (The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) due to be held in June 2012.
- We should always be mindful that human beings can live without many things, but we cannot live without food and without agriculture, there will be no food.
- It is internationally recognized that every human being, at all times, must have physical and economic access to an adequate supply of safe and nutritious food for an active, healthy lifestyle; or the means by which to procure it.
- In Barbados, the issue of nutrition is one that is of particular concern, given the high incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases that are now prevalent in the country.
- Over the years, however, the agriculture sector in Barbados has become increasingly marginalized.
- This sector has furthermore suffered for many years as the result of under investment into critical areas such as research, extension, technological advances, which has acted as a key constraint to the development of the sector. In addition, the sector has been faced with numerous other challenges that include:
- Limited financing and inadequate levels of new investment
- Inadequate research and development
- Reduced quantities of land available for agricultural production
- An inadequate legislative framework for dealing with key issues such as food imports, praedial larceny and the transfer of land out of agriculture
- The high cost of energy
- The insurgence of transboundary diseases and invasive species, such as the giant African snails, etc.
- Limited access to affordable water.
- The issue of climate change is also having, and will continue to have, an impact on agricultural production.
- We in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management therefore see the need for a complete restructuring and repositioning of the Agricultural sector so that the sector can become one of the pillars of economic development in Barbados.
- We see our role as providing the enabling policy environment, and facilitating the kinds of public and private sector investment needed to overcome the constraints facing the sector so that available opportunities can be exploited.
- It is our desire to reorient the agricultural sector such that it is focused on the production of food to improve our food security, as well as the nutrition and health of the Barbados population and to save foreign exchange.
- We believe that it is now necessary to implement a programme of local food production to cushion the impact of imported food inflation due to the increase in global food prices.
- The concept of the White Paper being prepared is based on the premise that there is a need for the modernization of the sector to the extent that it explores the linkages to other parts of the economy and fulfills its role in contributing to economic development.
- The policy areas to be developed by the White Paper will include: land use; praedial larceny; food and nutrition security; food imports; investment in the sector; promotion of inter-sector linkages between the food and agricultural sector and other sectors such as tourism, manufacturing and energy; capacity building and the development of appropriate human resources; the development of a sugar cane industry; incentives and technical and financial support to the sector; and the role of other national, regional and international agencies in support of the sector.
- The Ministry will be engaging our stakeholders in a series of consultations aimed at sensitizing them to what the Ministry is hoping to achieve and to receive their feedback on the issues that are of concern to them, as well as their input on how they would wish to have this policy document crafted.
- This Ministry will launch its sensitization programme with a National Consultation on a White Paper for Agriculture, entitled: “Repositioning the Agricultural Sector”. This National Consultation will be convened at the Savannah Beach Hotel on Wednesday, May 30, 2012, starting at 9:00 a.m..
- This will be followed with a series of Town Hall Meetings scheduled to be held at (1) Alexandra School, St. Peter on Monday, June 4, 2012 starting at 7:00 p.m.; (2) The Princess Margaret Secondary School, St. Philip on Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 5:00 p.m.; and (3) The Valley Resource Centre, St. George on Monday June 11, 2012 at 7:00 p.m..
- The preparation of the White Paper is but the first step in a process that will lead to the transformation and repositioning of the agricultural sector in Barbados.
- The White Paper will provide the overarching policy framework to guide other initiatives being pursued by the Ministry, such as:
- The preparation of a National Food and Nutrition Security Strategy and Plan of Action, with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); and
- The preparation of a Medium Term National Agricultural Strategy for the sector, as well as a Medium-Term Strategic Plan for the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFFW), which will include a component focused on Strengthening the Service Delivery Capacity of the Ministry. This will be facilitated through grant funding provided by the Inter-American Development Bank.
- It is anticipated that these two (2) initiatives will be launched in June, 2012.
- It is expected that the White Paper on Agriculture will be available in early July, 2012.
Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management