The Adrian Loveridge Column – Agriculture Connection

During 8th to 13th of October 2018 Barbados will host the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, which has been described as the region’s premier agricultural event of the regional calendar. The declared theme is stated as ‘strengthening agriculture for a healthier future in the region’. Throughout the week ‘farmers, policymakers, youth, experts in the field of agriculture and other stakeholders, will participate in activities aimed at chartering the regions path in the important sector’.

The activities include a trade show and exhibition – market Place 2018 – seminars, workshops, field trips and a special meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development on Agriculture (COTED).

As someone who is passionate about using more foodstuffs sourced locally and regionally and allied products in our tourism industry, I wish the event, all the very best.

While I understand the need to import vast quantities of visitor consumables in refrigerated containers, it does little or nothing to help grow our indigenous agricultural sector, either locally or across the Caribbean.

I graphically recall my first visit to Dominica where I witnessed literally thousands of ripe mangos rotting on the ground, while premium prices were still being paid here.

While operating our hotel and being unable to purchase locally grown mangos, we ordered the only available alternatives, which turned out to be tinned mangos imported by Thailand, at least 10,137 miles away by air and considerably longer by sea.

Surely, it is not above the collective ability of our manufacturers and distributors to can those otherwise wasted mangos into whole fruit or puree that could be used in any number of ways?

Years ago the worldwide consumer product giant, Colgate Palmolive operated a small subsidiary, also on Dominica which produced natural coconut soap, a firm favourite with our guests.

I am absolutely convinced there are many more opportunities like these two examples and as Dominica and other Caribbean territories recover from the devastation of Maria and other hurricanes, isn’t it our moral duty to foster greater trade co-operation?

I have singled out Dominica especially, as it has clearly demonstrated its ability to feed its own population with one of the highest percentages of food self-sufficiency in the region, reputedly 80 per cent, coupled with one of the lowest per capita food import bills.

While writing this column, I read for the first time about the Canadian Government funded agency, PROPEL (Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprise and Linkages),whose declared aims include increasing the value of Caribbean fresh produce by accessing high-value markets in the Caribbean.

According to various media reports, ‘PROPEL is working with private sector buyers, producers, business service providers and other market actors to facilitate the safe, effective and efficient movement of fresh produce from the farm level to market’.

Could this be a perfect model for us to work with and emulate to finally bring our farmers and tourism partners together for mutual benefit?

20 thoughts on “The Adrian Loveridge Column – Agriculture Connection


  1. Having maximum agriculture input into the leading forex earner makes economic sense. It allows us(GoB) to maximise forex retention by lowering the forex required to purchase the same food provided by local farmers. It all makes perfect common sense on paper and policy wise; but for years it appears to be something very difficult to materialise. maybe with a “many hand make light work” and “not business as usual” approach we may start to see some progress.


    • There was a high expectation by the blogmaster of the former government with Benn and Paul in the government. Not to make this political. However it seems policy priotoians lack of finances compromised the effort to integrate agriculture in policy position.


  2. The PROPEL project had a seven year duration and a budget of Can$8 million, but it comes to an end in 82 days. It was run by the Canadian Hunger Foundation http://www.chf-partners.ca/ but their website is littered with broken links and the PROPEL project is not mentioned. In fact they appear to have gone out of business way back in 2015 https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/after-50-years-ottawa-based-canadian-hunger-foundation-will-hand-over-existing-operations-519888581.html


  3. According to media reporting PROPEL, is still very much in existence. As late at December 2017 a 20 ton container of seedlings was shipped to Dominica under the programme in cooperation with Global Affairs Canada and WUSC Caribbean. The Canadian Government support was also quoted at $20 million.


  4. Just two economic theory corrections:

    Too many hands lead to diminishing returns ,since the workers get into each other’s way.
    No, it was not finance but lack of project management skills… implementation deficit.

    Talk is cheap. Walk requires an expenditure of effort. Finance is seldom the resource needed.


  5. Hotels and restaurants need fresh fruit and vegetables on a regular consistent basis.

    Vegetables grown in Greenhouses could be supplied year round in Barbados.

    The goal of a small island with limited natural resources should be to grow as much food as possible and minimise

    importing.


  6. @ Hants at 9 :38 Am

    Green house growing of vegetables is a good idea. In deed. it has been implemented for ay least 15 years. It is the concerted effort that is needed to ensure a continuous supply. In passing even this activity requires a high level of imported inputs capital equipment ,seeds ,fertilizers . It is virtually an assembly industry; labour and sunshine are the only local inputs.

    Hence Hal, the need for local economists obsession with foreign exchange.


  7. @PLT

    The PROPEL project is very much alive, the one identity you quote is indeed wrapping up in the next few months, however Adrian is correct that there are numerous other projects under PROPEL which are very much active and producing positive results based on the mandate.

    Adrian focusing on Dominica in house FOOD production should be the envey of other independent Caribbean countries. Barbados should observe, investigate and learn from what they consider to
    be a lesser functioning country compared to Barbados. Maybe the mighty Barbados has regressed more the they realize.


    • When David Thompson won the government in 2008 he announced he would have undertaken an initiative with Dominica to supply fruits and vegetables. Up to now we have not been able to make this a reality because of the danger of importing crop disease?

      On Monday, 24 September 2018, Barbados Underground wrote:

      >


  8. The blog master apparently had great expectations of Benn and Paul. I never did. Barbadians do not seem able to analyze things. The Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) has been used as a political stepping stone for some persons. Ask yourself what are the backgrounds of Benn and Paul vis-a vis the different agricultural science disciplines? Do some research. Barbadians like people who are glib talkers and who seem to have a smattering of of knowledge about a topic and who keep a lot of noise. For agriculture to hold any sway in Barbados,there is going to be a need for it to be innovative in the use of science and technology. I am talking about cutting-edge technology given the small size of the country: the development and exportation of new products that do not now exist. A long-term plan of where the country’s agricultural policy must go is also needed.

    Robert D. Lucas, Ph.D. and CFS.


  9. Once again, we are pretending that this is a new problem. About forty years ago, I was involved in a small tour company. A Bajan tour rep , told visitors, not to eat cou cou because , it was messy, only eaten by blacks and will “stick in their throats”. Now, if that type of person was influencing the eating habits of visitors how would they have promoted anything local. After all cou cou, is our national dish.
    The point I am trying to make is that even in the best of times , tourists were given some deliberately negative information, designed primarily to keep out certain groups.
    Agriculture was a victim too.
    Dr. Lucas is correct as well- we have too many square pegs in round holes around here.


  10. ” In welcoming the writers, Symmonds urged them to tell the story of Barbados, but not shy away from critiques as that would only serve to make the local tourism product better ”

    Could someone tell Symmonds that lesson 101 in marketing is not to state or highlight the ” negatives “


  11. This isn’t exactly agriculture but thought the BU readers might be interested to know that a Mexican man has built a house made of sargassum seaweed. He has manufactured the building blocks using the same techniques used locally to make adobe style bricks, which seems to be a common building material in that area. He claims that the sargassum blocks are strong and durable and are 50% cheaper to make than similar adobe style blocks. He also claims there is no foul smell lingering on after the process is complete. From my research on Youtube, adobe blocks are made by mixing water with clay, sand and straw and then pouring the mixture into forms and allowing to dry. I would suppose that the sargassum might perhaps be used as a replacement for the straw in the mixture.

    There is also a picture of the house in the newspaper article:

    PUERTO MORELOS, Q. Roo, September 20, 2018.- What the Quintana Roo authorities and scientists never imagined in their wildest dreams, a Portomorelense (man from Puerto Morelos) did… he built the first house entirely made of Sargassum, which could represent a worldwide milestone.

    Omar Sánchez Vázquez built Angelita – (he named the house in honor to his mother) – transforming the feared seaweed that invaded the beaches of Quintana Roo, into an organic, thermal and functional construction material, which by the way, costs 50 percent less than adobe bricks.

    The invention utilizes the same technique used to make adobe bricks, and its hardness is resistant to hurricanes, confirmed the proud creator.

    Owner of a nursery in Puerto Morelos, Sánchez Padilla said he will also constructing an office of seaweed partitions.

    https://www.theyucatantimes.com/2018/09/first-house-entirely-made-of-sargassum-built-by-mexican-inventor-in-quintana-roo/


  12. Judging by the story below the government’s priority is focused nearly exclusively on tourism. How strange that an island that gained her notoriety and wealth in agriculture appears indifferent to this most important sector.

    “The Minister of Tourism has also revealed that the Ministry of the Blue Economy has commissioned feasibility studies of the creation of two offshore islands on the west coast, a promise in the Barbados Labour Party’s 2018 general election manifesto.”

    This story of building two offshore islands will not go away; and is a sure sign that plans are in place to re-engineer Barbados demographics and i’m not talking exclusively about race.

    https://barbadostoday.bb/2018/09/24/barbados-is-back-with-investors/


  13. “An approaching tropical wave with axis now near 49/50°W and associated with the remnants of Tropical Depression Kirk, will begin to affect Barbados late tomorrow into Thursday.

    The system which is tracking westward at between 20 and 25 mph (32 to 40 km/h), has been fluctuating in intensity and some re-development is possible as it approaches Barbados and the Windward Islands late tomorrow.”

    http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/198712/tropical-wave-bring-gusty-winds-heavy-rains


  14. I notice that the spend of visitors to jamaica is up 12%, barbados can learn from their example…increase the cost of a bodyguards minimum wage.


  15. When David Thompson won the government in 2008 he announced he would have undertaken an initiative with Dominica to supply fruits and vegetables. Up to now we have not been able to make this a reality because of the danger of importing crop disease? (Quote)

    There is no real danger of this. Have we had an outbreak of crop diseases in Dominica. In any case, although the importation of citrus fruit from Dominica (UK supermarkets are full of the stuff and there is no fear of disease importation), the real failures are scientific and entrepreneurial. First, the English-speaking Caribbean have been sidelined by the Central and South American US-owned citrus plantations.
    But we could fight back by establishing a juicing plant in Dominica (that sorts our the fear of disease importation), cutting in to the market dominated by the US (ie Florida fruit juice), and the pulp can also be used to make marmalades, jams and other products. Our research scientists would also explore the residue for any medical products.
    Pine Hill Dairies could have dominated this avenue and it would have been a good investment opportunity for local retail and institutional investors.


  16. Here is a classic example of something I have raised on BU on numerous occasions. It may give some form of satisfaction coming on a blog and boasting of what powerful ideas one has to improve the country.
    But unless you have the power and wherewithal to follow through it is all hot air. People who have the resources to carry out their ideas will simply come on BU, steal ideas and turn them in to cash.
    I remember once getting an email from Bizzy Williams asking for my qualifications to back my ideas as expressed in my Notes. I was flabbergasted.
    Here i another example of this from Barbados Today. Stop giving away your precious ideas.

    Concerned about the island’s high food import bill and a lack of variety in fresh fruits and vegetables all year round, one businessman is pumping millions of dollars into the local agriculture sector to effect change.
    Canadian Charles Gagnon, who has called Barbados home for the past decade, told Barbados TODAY he was simply eager to see the island growing more of the fruits and vegetables it consumes, adding that there was too much focus on sugarcane production over the years with very little on food production.
    “A lot of the tropical fruits and vegetables should grow well here so we should really look at replacing these imports. You kind of don’t know where they come from or how they are grown,” he said, pointing out that his farm would be using “as little” chemicals as possible.
    “If there is any disruption in maritime transportation or airfreight then if you don’t have at least some food autonomy then people could literally starve here. I don’t think we can go fully autonomous but to have some level of food security is important,” he explained.
    Last year, Gagnon completed the purchase of the Haymans and Warleigh plantations with over 400 acres of property stretching from Bakers to parts of Black Bess, Haymans, Farm Road and The Whim, all in the parish of St Peter.
    Gagnon was guarded about the total investment to be pumped into the operation to get it fully operational. However, Barbados TODAY understands that, including the purchase of the expansive property, the total investment would surpass the $10 million mark.
    “We purchase the land and then we have invested in machinery for the farm. I don’t have exact figures but we have already invested a few million dollars in getting the farm going, purchasing equipment, and fixing the buildings,” said Gagnon.
    Over the past several months, workers have been transforming the land, which was previously used for the growing of sugarcane under the management of the Barbados Agriculture Management Company (BAMC), but was overgrown with shrubs and at various points became an illegal dumping ground.
    Gagnon told Barbados TODAY the plan was to populate the area with a variety of fruits and vegetables, explaining that while there would be some production of the more commonly grown food crops, he would be introducing others that were being imported once they were able to grow here, as well as some spices.
    He said he believed if people were exposed to a wider variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at a reasonable cost, a lot of the non-communicable diseases now facing the population would be a thing of the past.
    “If people were to eat healthier then the health problems here would be reduced significantly,” he said.
    Acknowledging that farming was “a difficult business”, the trained lawyer and financial expert said he was not going into the new business venture with huge expectations of profitability.
    “Margins are not very high, but if at least we can sell enough to pay for the investment and the equipment and the labour costs but we are not looking to make millions out of farming. It is very challenging here,” he said.
    The new crop production enterprise, known as Haymans Farm, currently employs 15 people, and that number could double when the farm is at full capacity.
    Asked why this kind of investment at this time, the founder of the 14-year-old Amphora Financial Group told Barbados TODAY he simply believed now was the time.
    “I find at the moment things are not going very well in Barbados. I hope it will turn around. The property market has been depressed for years and farming is not doing that well either. I just believe that this place, if properly managed, could do better over time.
    “It has big challenges, but I think it has a lot of potential. I just need to focus and get certain things done right. I hope it will turn out to be a good investment in the long run,” he explained.
    Stating that he was confident in the Mia Mottley administration’s push towards achieving food security, Gagnon said “If I can contribute by making a better offering of fruits and vegetables, so be it. It is going to be good for my own family because we live here, and it is going to be good for everybody who gets our produce.”
    Five acres of the farm, which uses its own water source, have been earmarked for the immediate production of vegetables within a shade house for local consumption.
    The bulk of the farm, however, will be for the production of hay, which will be sold both locally and regionally.
    “We may have some solar generation also on some parts of the property that we are looking at. That is really it. Eventually, once we have bigger volumes of fruits and vegetables we will offer them to the public so that people can come here and buy directly from the farm,” said the investor.
    Gagnon, who is a large shareholder in a cannabis production company in Canada, admitted that he did examine the possibility of putting some of the land into cannabis production, but said he was still uneasy about doing so because of the high fees associated with licensing.
    However, he said he was willing to try at a one-acre production, but insisted it was not a part of the short-term plans…..(Quote)

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