Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Protect agro jobs, foreign exchange

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RECENTLY there was a report of a new food import substitution plan aimed at protecting jobs in the agricultural sector.

This plan comes after several years of uncontrolled importation of food crops to the island.

Food crop production is now stunted, resulting in fewer jobs, reduced food security and expenditure of scarce foreign exchange because of unnecessary food importation.

Many years ago there was a requirement for permits and import licences, but in recent times there appears to be either no need for such or breaches in the regulations because we are reading “the importers need to speak with us more often”, and “the importers should give us a call, find out what is well, rather than rush ahead to import” – quotes from the chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation.

Readers have also been told that Barbados cannot ban imports because of World Trade Organisation rules. Well, then, impose hefty taxes on undesirable food imports that can be reliably produced by Barbadian farmers.

In order to achieve a particular objective, several calls were made for a higher tax increase on over-sweetened beverages. A similar approach should be taken in relation to the importation of a number of food crops being imported to the island that create unnecessary difficulties for local producers.

Whoever is responsible for the issuing of permits and licences should see to it that local farmers are not placed at a disadvantage.

The Barbados Agricultural Society also has a duty to represent and protect its members against what can be considered unfair competition.

Finally, hotel chains such as Hyatt, Wyndham, Sandals and others who may receive wide-ranging concessions when setting up their businesses, should be asked to meaningfully engage local suppliers of food and beverage items as a part of any arrangements.

– MICHAEL RAY

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