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Government is considering merging or partnering the state-owned Barbados Agricultural Management Company Limited (BAMC) with the Barbados Sugar Industry Limited (BSIL), as it seeks to fully privatise the sugar cane industry.
Additionally, Barbadians will have an opportunity to own shares in the newly formed entity which should come on stream within another five years.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir said Government could no longer subsidise the BAMC to the tune of BDS$12 million (US$6 million) under the current International Monetary Fund arrangement, so the company would have to find a way to bridge that financial gap. He said he had already instructed the Chairman of the BAMC that the board would have to look at how quickly the transition into the new entity could happen.
The Agriculture Minister said Government’s stake in the entity would be limited.
“We are embarking on a system of retooling and empowering, retraining and enfranchising. And, if we are going to do this successfully, then it means that we as a Government must pave the way for all of this to take place. There is no space for any government in this modern time and place where the private sector can perform those duties and do them better. I feel that greater efficiencies can come if we can get the sugar industry completely managed and operated through the private sector,” Weir said.
He said Barbados now had a sugar industry that is capable of delivering what was needed “in terms of build out of an industry” to contribute to Barbados’ economy going forward.
Weir cited additional opportunities that would be created through the rebirth of the sugar cane industry, such as entrepreneurs becoming involved in the “direct packaging and consumption of sugar” and rum distilleries producing more rum using local inputs. He also praised the high-quality products being made at the St. Nicholas Abbey, as well as their business model, which combines the manufacturing of agricultural products with tourism.
He added that there was a high demand for locally produced rum, adding that it was being sold “for a premium” in markets such as the United Kingdom.