The Importance of Agriculture
The agricultural sector in Barbados doesn’t get the respect it deserves. But it’s been known for a long time that a dollar spent in agriculture is recycled, on average, more than six times in the economy which is more than a dollar spent in any other economic sector.
The reason for this is that other sectors are also dependent on agriculture. Too often agricultural discussions focus narrowly on the “on-farm” or production aspects but the agricultural sector also involves:
- Input supply: management, labour (skilled and unskilled), equipment, and equipment repairs, planting material, fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides et al;
- Postharvest: Handling, storage, transport and distribution, processing, marketing, and sales.
In fact, the on-farm production aspects of agriculture (cultivation, crop production and or animal husbandry and harvesting) only accounts for 20% of the value of the whole sector. However, without that 20%, the rest cannot exist.
It’s also the reason why support of the on-farm aspects of the sector benefits all other economic sectors while increasing food production, improving food security, minimizing food prices and assisting the most vulnerable. In essence, the on-farm contribution has a huge multiplier effect on the overall economy.
Apart from the above, it’s clear that good agricultural practices enhance our physical environment which in turn contributes to our tourism industry.
Those economists who argue that the “more developed” countries can afford to support and or subsidise their agriculture production while poor, undeveloped countries cannot afford to do so, are sadly mistaken and have seriously misled the poor countries.
The problem with such subsidies is that they tend to produce surpluses. So what? Such surpluses are only a problem when they are dumped on the “world market” at prices less than the cost of production, thereby hurting other agricultural producers. The problem is not one of subsidy but of the greed associated with the dumping.
The Barbados Society of Technologists in Agriculture (www.bstabarbados.org) is a body of agriculturalists concerned with the promotion of sustainable agriculture through the use of technology and science for the benefit of all stakeholders. Find us on facebook.