Push for small ruminants

The production of small ruminants is poised to take off in the region and the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture’s Representative to Barbados and Management Co-ordinator for the Caribbean Region, Ena Harvey, believes that in Barbados, sheep in particular will be quite successful.

Speaking with The Barbados Advocate recently, Harvey noted that there are a number of regional initiatives being pursued in the area of small ruminants, with even the recently launched Agriculture Policy Programme focusing on this area in its mandate. With that in mind, she said that the recent visit to Barbados by Mexican consultants to look at the Barbados Black Belly Sheep was encouraging, and suggested that these experts were not only “blown away by the potential” of the sheep, but thought Barbados was “sitting on a gold mine”.

Her comments came as she revealed that millions of kilograms of mutton – goat and sheep meat – are imported into five countries in the Caribbean on an annual basis, among them Barbados and Jamaica, and she is adamant that if concerted efforts are made, the region can satisfy this obvious demand itself and stop the importation from countries like New Zealand.

However, using the Barbados Black Belly Sheep as an example, she explained that to increase that population will not be an easy task, as not all the sheep in Barbados are that breed and so they have to verify which are. Moreover, she said that Barbados Black Belly Sheep semen cannot be sold on the market unless efforts are made to certify that it is actually the breed, and a breeders association and registry are established.

“Those are the things we have to put in place and then we have to have a critical mass of sheep; we don’t have a critical mass of sheep. We have sheep all over the world and we have to work with those countries to build up these stocks of sheep,” she further indicated during the interview.

She added, “There is tremendous potential for us to build up our sheep herds and to really take advantage of this signature product that we have in Barbados, but it has to be a regional effort because we have sheep diaspora all over the world – in the Caribbean and Latin America; Peru even has thousands of Barbados Black Belly Sheep.”

With that in mind, she said that inter-ministerial co-operation will be required to get access to the original stock wherever it exists and to register the sheep. (JRT)

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