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Barbados developing plan for sustainable papaya industry

By Fabian Belgrave

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) — Barbados is on a mission to revitalise the papaya industry. This is from chief agriculture officer (Ag), Michael James, who said that the agriculture ministry was on a journey to rehabilitate papaya in Barbados.

He was speaking at a workshop for farmers, held recently by the ministry of agriculture, food and nutritional security, under the theme, “Capacity Building in Papaya Production”. It was conducted at the Ministry’s headquarters in Graeme Hall, Christ Church.

James told participants that in the 80s and 90s papaya was “grown all over the country”, and “we were almost self-sufficient”, not requiring any imports.

Emphasizing that the situation had changed, he said:

“So we have gone from that to [in] 2019, where we had a precipitous decrease that we are now importing some 42,000 kg worth BDS $225,425…People might scoff at that, saying ‘that [isn’t] a lot of money’ but for farmers it would fill a little hole.”

The acting chief agriculture officer pointed out that Barbados’ Papaya industry declined, over the years, due to the Bunchy Top Disease, found only in tropical areas.

However, he noted that a hybrid variety of papaya with a high tolerance to Papaya Bunchy Top, with high yield performance over traditional cultivars, might be a possible answer to the problem. James added that this would help Barbados achieve its goal of reducing the island’s food import bill by 25 percent by 2025.

Noting that government could not do it alone, he thanked the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and farmers for their assistance.

James also urged IICA to revise and reissue a number of their booklets, developed over the years, to aid farmers interested in papaya production.

CARDI Representative, Chadeene Beckles, praised the ministry for its current intervention referring to it as “timely”, and commended IICA and the ministry for working together to build the sector.

Beckles said: “I want to reassure you that CARDI stands ready to support IICA, themMinistry, FAO, the farmers and other value chain actors in the rehabilitation of the papaya industry. Through the conduct of field trials, CARDI will be working with our stakeholders to further identify ideal conditions for papaya production in Barbados.”

The FAO is expected to work closely with the programme to revitalise papaya production. FAO Representative, Juan Chaez, highlighted the value of market demands within the region in relation to a particular commodity.

He said it was important to understand what the markets wanted, the standards and requirements that could provide ideas and possibilities of where to add the best value, and how to meet the required standards.

“And therefore tailor the types of production packages that are necessary, that are required for that specific type of product. So, understanding the market is critical and as we strive to conform,” Chaez stated.

The technical session examined the “National Industry Development Plan” “Papaya Growing and Pre-production” and “Transplanting and Plant Care”, among other things.



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