Cane farmers not reaping timely rewards
Canefield in St. Lucy. (Photo: David Sager)
Director of Barbados Farms Limited, Edward Clarke, says while the company is having its best year for a number of years, funding remains a significant issue.
Attributing the increase to rainfall last year as well as some incentives over the past two years, he said the issue at hand is the receipt of the funding.
“It is no good having increased production and then you can’t get funding to fertilize the crops to increase next year’s production. The plan in the industry was to try and increase their level of production utilizing the resources that government had agreed to provide as incentive to increasing the growth in new cane planting. The problem is the payment has not materialized in a timely fashion once again and we continue to wait for these,” he explained.
The payment for the 2017 sugar crop he said has not been at the level that was expected since farmers were expected to get $80 per tonne and have only received $45 dollars per tonne so far.
He said they started to receive the additional $35 but that has stopped since he believes the government and the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) are out of funding.
This, he says, can and will retard production. Although acknowledging that government is working on it, he is concerned with the uncertainty if farmers cannot get paid in a timely manner.
According to Clarke, if the industry is to stay in business it must be funded and a proper plan must be put in place.
“Farming is not like selling shirts and pants in town; if you cannot fertilize the crops on a timely basis, you have a problem, if you cannot put pesticides and weedicides when you need to, then you can tell what happens with all the cow itch and everything else that you see growing in the canes,” he asserted.
He further stated that BADMC is also suffering as well, but says, it is the private farmers who are reaping the crop, supplying the cane and still not getting what is expected.
“We understand that something is being done and we should get it in the very near future, but it is still hampering our growth in the industry and it’s something people need to understand. You have to make a decision if you are in this or out of it,” he lamented.
Clarke said Sagicor Financial Corporation of which Barbados Farms Limited is a subsidiary, has been working with the government but understanding the financial situation, it is now a matter of trying to be patient and try to see if they can get a better deal going forward.
“I think the incentive is there and if the incentive is maintained the industry will improve tremendously, but the issue is timely payment of what has been promised,” he noted.
The late payment to farmers is nothing new. It was only last year that Government settled approximately $15 million in incentive payments that were due for the 2015 crop