The root and tuber industry of Barbados - Current status and suggestions for the future

Within the Caribbean, there are many small island developing states (SIDS) that are vulnerable, primarily due to the dominance of single crops and the resulting high level of dependence on the importation of goods. In many of these SIDS, the monocrop system is no longer economically viable due to the loss of preferential trade agreements and markets at export.

Approximately 432 km2 in size and with an estimated population of 284,644 (2013), Barbados is one of the small island developing states (SIDS) of the Caribbean. Characteristics of Barbados as a SIDS include a highly open economy and reliance on imports; dominance of the monocrop sugarcane (Saccharum spp.); high costs of production; restricted consumption, technical and financial capacities; vulnerability to natural disasters; limited natural resources and inadequate market size. These factors have had distinct negative effects on the production, utilisation and competitiveness of locally produced agricultural commodities such as root and tuber crops (RTCs) (Rawlins, 2003).

The most highly produced and utilised RTCs in Barbados are sweet potatoes, yams and cassava. These staple crops are mainly consumed fresh and represent a major source of carbohydrates in the Barbadian diet. Locally grown varieties of sweet potato are therefore in high demand. However, except for the period between 1995 and 1997 when there was a sudden increase in sweet potatoes export to the UK, domestic production of RTCs has generally been on the decline. The factors contributing to the declining production, sale and utilisation of RTCs in Barbados will be discussed in this report.

This report also examines the RTC development challenges that are faced by the Barbados Agricultural Management Co. Ltd (BAMC) and Barbados on the whole, in relation to RTC production, sale, marketing, research, post-production and post-harvest technologies. Whilst highlighting the programmes currently in place to address these limitations, suggestions for further work in Barbados are made, based on the observations of the first World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops (WCRTC) held in China.

“Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful." (Box and Draper, 1987)

It is against the aforementioned quote that this report has been written. Essentially, this quote dictates that every model1* is wrong because it is an over-simplification of reality. However, some models can still be of use as simplifications of reality are helpful in allowing one to better understand, explain and resolve a problem or challenge. As such, any interventions being recommended as solutions to the challenges of the Barbadian RTC industry, based on the experiences of others, must take into consideration the unique challenges of the Barbadian public and private agricultural entities.