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Arrowroot industry showing positive signs

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For years now, agricultural production in our country, and indeed much of the region has been shrouded under a cloak of gloom and doom. Many have been the predictions of the demise of the sector as it reeled under a series of crippling blows, inflicted by both humans and nature. The decline was manifested in production undermining our ability to satisfy our own food needs out of local produce and in exports, the latter impacting on our foreign exchange earnings.{{more}}

Recently though, there have been encouraging signs of recovery in some areas though we are far from being out of the woods and our vulnerability level remains high. It reminds us that all is not lost and that it is indeed possible to overcome some of the problems while taking steps towards disaster mitigation.

After a virtual shutdown in banana exports, there are signs of at least some boost in regional exports, as there are with root crops and the long-standing arrowroot industry, which has shown a remarkable resilience.

This past week, the local arrowroot Association announced that harvesting of the 2016 crop has begun. It may be a month or two late, due to some difficulties experienced but there is an optimism being exuded which is good for the industry.

The Association’s Manager predicted production this year to be in the vicinity of one million pounds, responding both to market demands as well as favourable prices. This positive upward movement in prices has resulted in the industry being able to buck the trend and increase production.

When prices reached almost ‘rock bottom’ levels, with farmers receiving as low as 25 cents per pound, many went out of production and acres of traditional “arrowroot land” remained idle as a result. This had serious economic and social consequences particularly in the “arrowroot belt” in North Windward. But with prices rising in response to market demands to 30 cents, then 50 cents and now $1.00 per pound, many farmers who had either drastically scaled down or abandoned the industry entirely, have responded positively.

This is good news for the North Windward area, for agriculture and for the country as a whole. It demonstrates what can happen when farmers get proper returns on their investment and are suitably rewarded for their efforts. At a time when we lament so much about the failure of young people to take up agriculture as a career, it provides an example of how positive market conditions can impact on an industry.

This does not mean that all the problems in the arrowroot industry are solved or that the agricultural path is paved in gold. We, who have suffered from the vicissitudes in “green gold”, (banana), know from experience that this cannot be the case. But it demonstrates what is possible if we work hard enough to get our faulty act together, to increase production and maximize productivity, and to take opportunities of market openings.

We wish the arrowroot farmers, the Association and all those involved in the industry all the best for this year’s endeavours and urge similar efforts in the rest of the agricultural sector.

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