Higher costs, cheaper produce, severe weather events and plant diseases are taking its toll on agriculture here, according to a former president of the Cayman Islands Agricultural Society.
Local farmer Otto Watler said agriculture in Cayman seems to be in a worse state now than before.
‘In years gone by, the country was more self-sufficient in agriculture than we are today comparing the times Caymanians lived off the land,’ he said. ‘We had cows, chickens, milk, butter and cheese… you name it. We grew bananas, cassava pumpkins, corn, watermelons, potatoes and so forth.
‘It is shame that this country, with all the modern technology today pertaining to agriculture, is in such a bad shape.’
Mr. Watler said the problems facing agriculture today are long and varied and that if agriculture was to make a comeback to these islands, it would take someone willing to put their heart and soul into it, working along with Government and the Agriculture Department to really encourage agriculture to a new level in Cayman.
Besides factors such as hurricanes, plant diseases, the importation of cheaper produce and higher productions costs, the government has also played a part in the decline of Cayman’s agriculture. He said having government only pay ‘lip service’ to the name of agriculture did not help the situation.
Suggesting a way forward, Mr. Watler said what he thinks needs to be done is to have someone appointed by the farmers and Agriculture Society of this country to liaise with the Agriculture Department, Cabinet members and even the Governor to discuss solid and concrete ideas about farming in Cayman.
‘But until that happens, it will remain on a downward spiral,’
Mr. Watler said one only had to listen to the radio or read the news to know the situation in the United States and that alone should urge Caymanians to be more to be self-sufficient in agriculture.
‘Any produce that is grown in Cayman is good for the island,’ he said. ‘It is not everything the country can grow, but we could be self-sufficient in a number of things such as beef, pork, goat, eggs, chicken, milk, produce and so forth. These are the things we can live off if push comes to shove.
‘The time has come for someone to take responsibly, grab the bull by the horns, and do something in this country to make agriculture better off. Farmers need help and desperately.’
On thing the suggested government could do is provide water at a lower rate.
Mr. Watler said that although there is no longer the amount of land for farming that there used to be, what remained should be utilised to its fullest.
‘A hands-on situation with everyone getting involved to improve on agriculture would go a far way,’ he said.
Mr. Watler, who has been involved with agriculture from the time he was a young boy, said he was passionate about agriculture in these islands.
‘I have known the good, the bad and the ugly about agriculture in Cayman,’ he said.