St Lucy farmers lament rising bills

Farmers in the Spring Hall land lease project, St Lucy, are struggling.

Between water costs, labour costs, water shortages and fertiliser and pesticide costs, they are barely turning a profit, if any, they said but they cannot give up.

Anil Mangal said he and his brother were among the biggest farmers in St Lucy and he had too many people depending on him to even consider calling it quits.

“I’ve been doing this for 26 years, I ain’t now start and I can’t stop now or people out of bread. We make sure to sell to the middleman instead of the retailers so if we left them out, what would happen to them? The good thing about us is we are consistent,” he said.

Mangal said things were “rough” as water prices had tripled, the cost of pesticides had skyrocketed, and labour had changed.

“Our water bill used to be $1 200 a month, now it’s $4 000. Now, nobody wants to work for you for less than $100 a day and a lot of workers gone back to Guyana – how can you ask someone to come here and work for the same money they were making back home? What workers you have, you got to keep,” he said, adding they had to work with what little profit they could manage.

Regarding crops, he said he was growing sweet peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, water melons and okras. He said things were “balanced” right now but bad weather would make things like sweet peppers and tomatoes scarce.

Timothy Jordan said watermelons and sweet potatoes would be plentiful “for a little while” while cucumbers were cheap however, he said sweet peppers were expensive and tomatoes would be hard to find. He said there was also an issue with his okras.

“They got a problem, even the ministry don’t know what it is – it looks like a little green fly sucking them all the time,” he said.

Jordan described his business as “all but dead” as he lamented the dropping value of some produce and the rising prices of pesticides.

“I just buy three sprays for $430 and that is not all I have to buy. Produce is not moving fast enough to turn over a profit, right now sweet potatoes selling for $1. When prices wasn’t bad, you could not get the food to grow and now you can get the food grow, the prices are ridiculous,” he said, referring to the prices he has to offer his customers. 

Despite his woes, Jordan said he was still trying his best. He said: “In this business, you have to learn to put down something when you getting something. You got to keep on fighting, it don’t be so all the time.”

Farmer “Indar” also said water costs had risen sharply, up by 300 per cent and Barbados was sourcing food from other countries which were “full of toxic chemicals”. He said another major problem was river tamarind.

“Those things can spread hundreds of seeds. Government had to bring a D9 [tractor] to clear up this land,” he said.

“Indar” explained what kept him in the fields despite all the hardships – a love of farming.

“Chemicals gone up, water gone up, fertiliser gone up, labour force costs gone up but people got to eat and fresh is best. Still, you got to like this work,” he said.

Another farmer, who identified himself as “Tall Man Persaud” was planting watermelon along with a group of workers. He said they had to cater their planting according to the availability of water.

“You does get low pressure so you have to plant to suit. At one point only one pump was working so we were under ration but now the second pump finally fix. Still, when everybody using water, the pressure can be low and when it so, it can take the whole day to water a field,” he said.

“Tall Man” recounted how he lost a two-and-a-half acre field of onions last year because of low water conditions, adding they made up for it with “cash crops” such as watermelon and cucumber.

The farmer said he would welcome rain as a good downpour once or twice a day would make a real difference. However, he said there was something such as too much of a good thing so he hoped there would not be excessive rain which would wash away seedlings.

Member of Parliament Peter Phillips said he recognised the plight of some of the farmers in his constituency and solutions were under consideration. “We are working with Spring Hall to ensure they get a steady water supply. We have to find a catchment area for them to channel water to the farmers. I have a tour of Mount Poyer coming -where they use tanks- to see what is happening there to see if that method can be used elsewhere. It is going to take funding to build a catchment area similar to River, St Philip and we are looking at doing something similar in St Lucy but that has to be properly assessed and costed,” he said.

The post St Lucy farmers lament rising bills appeared first on

Leave a Reply