Bajans pick cotton, cut sugar cane twenty years from now? Let’s get real!

Does Barbados really have a cotton industry?

Cotton industry ‘revamp’ same talk we’ve heard for 40 years

submitted by Bleeding Hands

Barbados takes pride in our educated population and in our status as an ‘almost’ developed nation. The recent economic setbacks might have pushed us back a step or two, but this is a worldwide phenomena not exclusive to our country. Bajans should be proud of what we have achieved together in the last four decades.

One of the social changes brought about by our development and increased education, however, is that few if any of our young people aspire to jobs or business ownership in agriculture and especially not in agricultural sectors reminiscent of the plantation era of our history. If one could grow tomatoes or other food crops and make a decent living that is one thing: sugar and cotton are another world entirely in the minds of bajans and for good reason. Aside from the unprofitable nature of the those two crops, sugar and cotton have historical baggage that young bajans want nothing to do with and I cannot blame them.

Despite the unemployment on this island, Barbados has to import labour from other countires to work our sugar and cotton industries. That is because our population rejects the work, and they reject it because they have been conditioned to reject it – and also it pays nothing or next to nothing.

Educated young people do not wish to pick cotton, cut cane

We have educated our society and our young people out of the sugar and cotton industries. The economic realities of these crops mean that except in a handful of top level positions, or where old family money means that lands are kept in crop for tax and other larger business purposes, young people entering agriculture have slotted themselves into a lower income level. That’s hardly an attractive sell for an industry, and the money from these two crops is unlikely to get much better anytime soon.

Sugar especially is heavily subsidised by the Barbados government and through rapidly diminishing buying agreements with Europe that were originally established as a type of foreign aid to assist Barbados in transitioning the economy. Sugar has been heavily ‘in transition’ since at least the 1950s and no matter what our many governments have said in the last forty years, their actions show that sugar and cotton are dead as a viable life choice for the coming generations.

Despite this reality, we continue to fool ourselves that the dead will live again: and profitably!

Today in the Barbados Advocate we see ‘Cotton in demand‘, to which I ask “At what social and economic price for Barbados and for our young people?”

There are better places to grow cotton than Barbados

Contained within the trying-to-be-upbeat reporting are the seeds of truth that Barbados soils and climate are not the best for cotton quality and yield. We lack the labour resources. Our markets are far away and we haven’t been able to establish the retail sector of the business as we have wanted to for 20 years. We’ve failed to make our West Indian Sea Island Cotton ‘brand’ worth extra money so now we are back to selling to the wholesale mass markets. And you know what my friends? We can’t compete and survive in wholesale markets for anything where price is 90% of what matters. That is true in sugar, in cotton, in medical transcriptions and a host of other businesses in agriculture, manufacturing and service.

Land owners’ views

Let me tell you how Barbados land-owners look upon cotton and sugar production in the early part of the 21st century: it is a way of keeping the taxes low on lands until they can be sold or developed. We may have to keep a core of subsidised sugar production in place so we can make molasses and continue to claim ours is “Bajan” rum even though we import the majority of our molasses – but that is a special case where our rum industry depends upon access to a certain amount of ‘Bajan’ molasses. How many drops of Bajan molasses are necessary for rum to be ‘Bajan’? We don’t want to talk about that now, do we?

The future will be different. It always is and the big changes can be seen if you look at history in 20 year segments.

Bajans pick cotton and cut sugar cane? Twenty years from now?

Let’s get real!

Bleeding Hands

Further Reading

Please go to the Barbados Advocate to read their article Cotton in demand. We have to reprint it here in full because unfortunately the Bajan news media often deletes news stories to suit different agendas, and BFP’s post is based upon a news story…

Cotton in demand


There is a demand for West Indian Sea Island Cotton.

In light of this, Exclusive Cottons of the Caribbean Incorporated (ECCI), is working hard to get into some of the larger markets, revealed General Manager Adlai Stevenson.

Speaking to participants of the Grow More Cotton seminar at the Eastern Caribbean Fertiliser Company (ECFCO) offices at the Uplands Fertilizer factory, St. John yesterday, he indicated that there is a big demand for the cotton in Italy.

“However, we want to go beyond Italy and we want to do more than simply sell to them. We are currently producing a number of products and selling those locally, but we need to get into the international market.

“Clearly the Italians and Swiss have made a lot of money off West Indian Sea Island Cotton, and it is time for us in the Caribbean, who are growing the product, to be selling wholesale in the first instance. Because as much as we dream of doing retail, to establish a retail outlet on some of the high streets will call for millions of dollars in investment,” acknowledged Stevenson.

He went on to indicate that the ECCI takes the view that there is a need to increase the use of science in the cotton industry.

“Clearly the information coming out of the soil samples and the analysis suggest that we need to work assiduously to solve some of the problem that we are seeing. At EECI clearly we are trying to go down the value chain and to earn significant profits in Barbados,” he added.

According to him, such seminars are important since there is a need to start at the farm.

“We need to ensure that we are getting good quality, and make sure the yield is adequate. In the past the yield, in my view, has been inadequate. We are reaping too little of the cotton that is produced at the farm. Therefore we need to work on harvesting, productivity of the plant itself, among other aspects. We need to involve more of the growers and begin to revamp the industry in general.”


Filed under Agriculture, Barbados, Cotton, Economy, Sugar

11 responses to “Bajans pick cotton, cut sugar cane twenty years from now? Let’s get real!

  1. 212

    If Governments had spent the same time and energy since Independence formulating a sustainable development plan for Agriculture and Manufacturing as was done for Tourism and Off Shore Banking, our ruined former industries would be making a meaningful contribution today. Government racism and myopia are the underlying factors of strategic thinking. Its not too late if statesmanship and NOT politics is used by Government to address the woes of Agriculture and Manufacturing. Barbados has the brains. do we have the national will though? CAN IT BE DEVELOPED?

  2. Peltdownman

    The problem is that “Bleeding Hands” has not identified what should be done to replace these industries. As I write, the Jamaicans are rushing back into sugar, as the world price has recently rocketed. The problem with sugar and cotton is not the shortage of appropriate labour, but the political will to make the crops pay. For years we have been faffing around talking about greater value-added in cotton for Barbados while the cotton was rotting in storage. This was and is nonsense, and Adlai Stevenson is correct in stating that, for now at least, we should sell it wholesale. Incidentally, I see no harm at all in importing labour for these two industries, providing it helps make them more profitable and to keep land under agriculture. If Bajans don’t want to work in them, too bad – over the past two decades they have been conditiond to think that the only worthwhile jobs are in air conditioned offices. Their chickens are fast coming home to roost!

  3. 18

    Pave paradise and put up a parking lot OF CRAP AND HOUSING AND BIG CARS !!!!!!! BS Barbados!! Only thing good about my home now is the seas around her and a few scenic points up in the hill and cliffs !!!
    Drink rum and eat puddin n’ souse and watch thousands of polluting lawless vehicles go by , is the next line to the songs !!!LOL

  4. Brudah-Bim

    The poster OBVIOUSLY does not know how Macro-economics works.
    “Despite the unemployment on this island, Barbados has to import labour from other countires to work our sugar and cotton industries.”
    Let us first try to assess your logic hear. You as an individual truly notice nothing that is wrong with that previous statement. You first off preach about how Barbados needs to attract FOREIGN COMPANIES to come up within our shores and to pitch up THEIR OWN BUSINESSES at the EXPENSE of our HIGHLY UNEMPLOYED YOUTH who are virtually ill equipped to adequately fill in the spaces at the top ranking positions at the branches of these FOREIGN conglomerates due to their limited knowledge pertaining to corporate functions.

    What we need to do is to basically re-educate these youth by offering them subsidized education at more promising fields. DOMESTICALLY OWNED AGRICULTURE should be Bim’s mainstay as an economic pillar. When you say “Educated young people do not wish to pick cotton, cut cane” ; note that with modern advances in techniques as well as technology, there is no longer a need to use open space for conventional farming. We can appeal to these youth by making it clear that hydroponic farming is both MODERN and HIGHLY PROFITABLE as the pay is guaranteed to be high. But there should be heavy emphasis in focusing on solidifying and PROTECTING the local markets.

    What I am also getting at here, is that by such a HEAVY reliance on foreign corporations to set up shop and do business in Bim; this fundamentally enables them to play on the EXACT same playing field as the LOCAL BUSINESSES of BIM. This is harmful, due to the fact that these are MULTI-NATIONAL conglomerates that can easily price out local businesses that are competing within the same industries.

    This Consequently leads to the erosion of Bim’s economic foundation, for it has now shifted to rely SOLELY on foreign goods and services. Thus, the products essentially leave Bajans highly susceptible to the IMMEDIATE effects of global price fluctuations, particularly with commodities as well as produce (as Barbados now Imports a majority of her produce from abroad) these global corporations no longer find that doing business in Bim is no longer profitable, they can simply pack up and leave. This is because they have NO OBLIGATIONS to Bim, as they are not owned nor held down under Bajan legal jurisdiction.

    Should foreign corporations move out of Bim en masse, then Bajans can expect to be left in a pit of helplessness, as we have no natural resources and we have no well formed Domestic Market to fall back on that would otherwise essentially enable for there to be employment opportunities due to local and regional demand.

    What the poster is talking about essentially, is “HOW TO Keep UP WITH FIRST WORLD APPEARANCES”. Mind you he says that he was content with Barbados being an “ALMOST DEVELOPED” economy. What a load indeed….

  5. Brudah-Bim

    I frgot to mention that Hydroponic Farming would make it a lot easier for there to be an expansion on growing other crops such as Cotton and Sugar Cane in to more profitable crops. .

    Here’s how a Hydroponic farm in NYC is EXPANDING:

  6. victor

    Bajans have been living in a dream world for ages, imagining themselves being in the first world instead of what they really are, third nudging on second, all boosted by tourism. It just goes to show what happens to a country which depends on tourists alone, Not only is the country ruined visually by endless horrible hotels malls, etc, people turfed out of their homes but agriculture declines, and the country cannot support itself anymore. It is really sad. The reason Barbados is in decline can be simply put; there are fewer tourists. Time to stop looking outward for cash. it aint coming.

  7. victor

    In Greece which has now huge unemployment, unemployed workers are leaving Athens and going back to the farm; they can’t afford the food prices in town, have lost their office jobs so are now going back to grow their own and raise animals to sustain themselves. Luckily some of them can do that. Those who have abandoned country life as being inferior have no resources to fall back upon and must sit on the begging line or scrounge food from waste bins to survive. The suicide rate has quadrupled.

  8. 162

    If you want want a cotton industry don’t just talk about it make it so ….break from the the old ways of the wisica cartel and make it your own slowly but surely from future generations …. sam

  9. Dr. Ken

    What many people overlook is the possibility of value added to the Bajun resource base. Creative imagination has yet to make an appearance in the local scene. Perhaps it will.. Why not large candy factories in Barbados?? Or ethanol plants making fuel for autos? And how about vertical integration of the Island Cotton output, using folks from Guyana to help with the harvest??
    Then there is import replacement…all of the above would create 10 – 20,0000 more good jobs……But it takes positive thinking…not griping.. Some folks as why?? Others ask Why Not?

  10. Michael Hunte

    As a young boy age i’ll say i was about ten at the time, My Mother work picking the cotton in the sell shed in the park Bridgetown, No water was use as it would rot the bag, leaves and steam was to be remove, i think it work by get i a bag as you go in to start. The bag was weighted listed we when off got a seat and stared to pick out the leaves and other foreign bodies. i do remember an overseer would walk about the shed. it was like a meat market, who he pick to give a job, He had power. that was over sixty years ago.
    Mike Hunte

  11. Pingback: Confusion and intrigue as press release battle errupts over the “Sea Island Cotton” brand names. | Barbados Free Press