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$2 million injection for struggling banana farmers

$2 million injection for struggling banana farmers

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As Prime minster Dr. Ralph Gonsalves announced an over $2 million booster shot for struggling banana farmers, he made a call for the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture to play their part in keeping the industry alive.{{more}}

The announcement was made at a special meeting of employees of the Ministry of Agriculture with the Prime Minister, held at the Peace Memorial Hall in Kingstown last Thursday, October 6.

During that meeting, the Prime Minister announced that at a sitting of Cabinet the day before, a number of banana support measures were agreed, including the approval of $4, to be paid for every bunch of bananas ‘cut back’ by banana farmers during this latest period of income support assistance.

“We do the income support for a month and the figure which we get is… $498,640.01.

“The SVG Producers will get $19,585.80, and the WINFARM farmers: $479,054.21.

“If I may say comparatively, that is the figure which is used also in St.Lucia, where forms of assistance have also been offered.”

The Prime Minister also said that up to $1,132,652 will be paid to 567 farmers for 405 acres of banana that were cut back during this latest round of Black Sigatoka outbreak, and another $476,000 has been allocated for plantain farmers.

According to Gonsalves, Cabinet has also agreed to close to $500,000 in fertilizer support, some of which was to have arrived last Friday, October 7, with more to arrive at the end of October.

He also indicated that seeds and livestock are also to be distributed to root crop, vegetable and livestock farmers as part of further assistance.

“I have made the arrangement for us to make the payments. Things are challenging, but never too challenging for this government and this Prime Minister to find money for the farmers.”

The Prime Minister warned that income support and fertilizer will only be allocated to farmers who have genuine intentions to remain in the banana industry, and that measures will be put in place to ensure those who misuse the assistance will no longer benefit from it.

“Income support is not really for a man to take his woman to Trinidad, or to make a downpayment on a ‘skettel’, that’s not the purpose of income support; it’s to get you back into cultivation. So if you’re not doing that, you’re not supposed to get the income support. If you’ve come out of the farming, you could get some other kind of banana assistance, but not this one.”

“I don’t live on Mars; I don’t have my feet firmly planted in the sky… I know that some of this fertilizer is going to end up in the hills, unrelated to banana, plantain or other legitimate forms of cultivation… I can’t allow for fertilizer to be used for the one long crop and the two short crop in the hills.”

He indicated that with the support given to the farmers, he expected an increase of up to double the current export in the near future, and called on Ministry of Agriculture employees to be the driving force behind the revival of the industry.

“That is an important agenda item for the Ministry of Agriculture, for all the extension officers, for the farmers and for WINFAM.”

“We know where we are going with the strategy… we can’t repeat it over and over, we have to just do the work because dealing with the agricultural sector is not a public speaking contest; it’s to get things done, and that’s what we are about.”

Gonsalves asked the staff members to spend more time ensuring that they are effective and productive, and to refrain from becoming complacent.

He acknowledged that individuals would have their personal problems, but indicated that the best way to deal with them was as a unit.

“I really want to ask you all, please, let us pull it together. I am appealing to you. This industry is absolutely vital. We have to have a partnership with the farmers; we have to do more with less. You have to pull the weight.”

“Some of you may like the Comrade; some of you may not like me, but that is not the issue.”

“Some may not like ‘Gomery [Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel]. You are not working for ‘Gomery….We have to pull this thing together.”

“You know the complaint about the Ministry of Agriculture is that you have more degrees per square metre; you have more vehicles per square metre than any place else in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, yet the farmers can’t see extension officers and people with the degree them, writing long paper and talking generally and leaving the real work not properly done.”

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