The major thrust in the agricultural sector in Barbados is to reduce the food import bill. Among the issues that hinder the achievement of this goal are, high energy costs, insufficient sector investment, and insufficient human resources involved in production. This all results in a marked reduction in the contribution of agriculture to GDP and an overall low level of food security.
In the area of fisheries, Barbados’ fishing industry, says the FAO, comprises nine main fisheries:
The FAO goes on to say that in 2002 flying fish (Hirundichthys affinis) was the most important species for fisheries in Barbados comprising approximately 64% of the total annual landings. The second most important species was dolphin (Coryphaena hippurus) which comprised 22% of the total annual landings.
Barbados is also known for a number of superior quality agro-based products such as:
A country report commissioned on behalf of CARICOM indicates that the sugar and rum segments have been receiving attention through restructuring to enhance efficiencies while attempts at the revival of the Barbados Blackbelly Sheep industry, a much-sought after meat and a prominent hair sheep, continue.
Still, on a per capita basis, Barbados imports the most food amongst the countries studied to feed its local and visitor population. Total annual imports of food products averaged USD $315 million between 2010 and 2015 with imports of:
In the case of fruits, Barbados imports 93% of its requirements.
According to Chapter 3 of Barbados’ Medium Term Development Strategy 2010-2014: “The Agricultural sector has undergone and will continue to undergo significant changes in order to combat the challenges inherent in the domestic and external environment.
On the domestic front, agriculture continues to compete with other sectors for scarce resources such as land, labour and capital.”
This clearly indicates that the agricultural sector will continue to face severe challenges and suggests the continuing need for policy measures aimed at stimulating sector growth. The Country Report commissioned on behalf of CARICOM also noted that in 2013, Barbados developed a Strategic Plan for the transformation of the agricultural sector based on the theme “Food Security” as the current level of food imports was deemed unacceptable by the Minister of Agriculture.
Barbados’ land area is 431 square kilometres (sq. km) with 140 sq. km. available for production. And of this amount, 12,000 hectares are classified as arable. Permanent crops occupy 2.33% of this area and other crops and livestock on 69.77% (2011) with about 5,400 ha or 12% irrigated (2013).
Increasing competitiveness of sugarcane
The sugarcane industry, once a major occupier of arable lands, has been restructured to improve international competitiveness by emphasizing the provision of biomass for the cogeneration of electricity in order to augment the energy supply to the national grid, as well as strengthening linkages with the Tourism/Services sectors.
Cotton, once a vibrant export commodity is now only occupying a small acreage despite the potential to produce high quality cotton.
Overall, the agriculture sector continues to be affected by:
Looking to the future with strategic plan
In the National Strategic Plan of Barbados (2005-2025), a series of strategies to enhance the Competitiveness of the Agriculture Sector so that it can compete in both the domestic and international markets and increase output are outlined.
One of the strategies is to restructure and modernise the entire agricultural sector to enhance productivity and product quality, reduce cost and post-harvest losses and create value-added to increase local consumption and export potential. This will be achieved through: