(CMC) — The Barbados government says it 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.
Agriculture and Food Security Minister, Indar Weir, also said Barbadians will have an opportunity to own shares in the newly formed entity which should come on stream within another five years.
Weir said the government could no longer subsidise the BAMC to the tune of BDS$12 million (One Barbados dollar=US$0.50 cents) under the current International Monetary Fund (IMF) arrangement.
Last week, Barbados and the IMF said they had reached an agreement that will result in the country being given access to almost US$300 million to support a home-grown programme aimed at turning around the economy.
Weir said as a result, the company would have to find a way to bridge that financial gap and that he has already instructed the BAMC board of directors 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,” he said.
Weir said that Barbados now had a sugar industry that was capable of delivering what was needed “in terms of build out of an industry” to contribute to Barbados’ economy going forward.
He cited additional opportunities that would be created through the rebirth of the sugar cane industry, such as entrepreneurs getting 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.
Weir said that there was a high demand for the Barbados rum brand produced by St Nicholas Abbey and for locally produced rum on a whole, adding that it was being sold “for a premium” in markets such as the United Kingdom.