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Capitalize more on existing crops

Capitalize more on existing crops

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by JAMILA SOSO-VINCENT 29.FEB.08

Although no new findings were presented, stakeholders in the agricultural sector have been reminded that St. Vincent and the Grenadines already produces many crops that can be capitalised upon.{{more}}

At a workshop that took place on Tuesday at Sunset Shores Hotel, Consultant Dr. George Gray of the British consultancy firm Landell Mills said that his main focuses were on improving marketing and narrowing the communication gaps between small farmers, agro-processors and their target market.

George also addressed the roles of the Government and the private sector. He stressed that there was too much dependence on the Government, when its role should be that of a facilitator. The Private Sector should be called upon to lead the way forward.

In his feature address, Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel pinpointed the advent of the European Union (EU) as being the cause of the decline in banana sales in the Caribbean, and, ultimately, the driving force behind St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ quest for agricultural diversification. The Lauders Agro-processing Facility and the Coconut water Bottling Plant were mentioned, as well as the on-going problems that they faced. Daniel also announced plans to revive the coconut oil industry.

A murmur of discontent bubbled in the audience when Minister Daniel admitted that, thus far, the Government had spent some two millions dollars (EC) in consultancy fees. He ended his address with a call for the private sector to contribute more and join with the Government in the development of local produce management. “We need to stop relying on foreign imports”, he declared.

Remarks were also given by National Authorising Officer for EU Projects Laura Anthony-Browne, Landell Mills Representative Francesca Guiso Gallisai and Landell Mills Team Leader Gilbert Addy.

During discussions, the general conclusion made was that there was not enough communication between farmers, agro-processors and extension officers/agents. It was expressed that the matters, which the Landell Mills team had identified as being problem areas, were matters which had been previously identified. Therefore, it was disappointing to see that progress is still not being made at the rate it should. Minister Daniel interjected that whilst he was disappointed with there being no new suggestions for agricultural initiatives, he was pleased with the vast potential that crops, already being grown in SVG, possessed.

One participant made the point about the need to remove politics from the agriculture industry. He argued, “Hire people who are qualified for the position and not because of the colour of the shirt they wear!”

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