Agricultural sector in spotlight at four-day Expo
Over 70 stalls showcasing local farmers, small business and organisations have been set up at the decommissioned ET Joshua airport since Wednesday as part of the Agri Expo 2019.
Organizers of the expo, which is a partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), transformed the venue for the four-day event as a way of showcasing the agricultural sector.
“We specifically said, we are not bringing an exhibition. We are bringing an exposition,” Cornelius Richards, the chairperson of the planning committee said at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, the first day of the event.
Richards said that “an exhibition is a collection of items that people look at. That’s not what we’re trying to do. We are trying to showcase the sector of agriculture which has been neglected in our minds for a very long time”.
The chairperson said the concept of the Agri Expo began back in March, but his team was not able to actively work on executing it until two weeks ago, when the agreement was signed with the FAO.
And he urged patrons not to be too critical, but rather to see the effort of what was intended by the hosting of the event.
Richards also said that despite not being a major earner for this country, agriculture is still a significant part of the economy, culture and overall fabric of society.
“We cannot be productive unless we eat well and we have the potential in this country to produce, to produce the best crops, the best animals, the cleanest water, the best soil, so we have no excuse of not eating well,” he said.
The stalls are set up throughout the terminal building and tarmac of the airport and cultural packages are scheduled to take place nightly.
Agri Expo 2019 was officially opened on World Food Day, October 15.
Dr Renata Clarke, a representative from the FAO, in her remarks, said that food and agriculture has possibly been the simple most important force driving the development of civilisations.
She said it was important that people reflect regularly on the relationship with food so that clear ideas are formed about how food systems ought to develop.
“Overt hunger is less of a problem in our region than it is in any other parts of the world, but the only ethical decision possible is that we must achieve zero hunger,” she said. “But where in the Caribbean we are leading, in a negative sense, is obesity. Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Jamaica are among the top 14 countries globally in terms of female obesity. St Vincent is slightly behind, but only slightly and catching up fast with a growth of 2.6 per cent annually in terms of female obesity…”
Clarke said this results in social and economic impact because of how lifestyles have changed.
And she said the FAO intended to work along with international partners to introduce National Food Consumption surveys “so that policy makers can make better decisions on programmes and policies aimed at helping people eat better”.
The FAO representative encouraged patrons to visit all booths at the expo, not only to support local agri-preneurs, but also to talk to farmers and exhibitors, as a way of knowing the food they consume better.
Saboto Caesar, the minister of agriculture used his remarks to highlight issues that he said are not being talked about enough.
“There are far too many farm workers around the world who are not given, not only correct equipment, but protective gears to protect them against the negatives as it relates to their health, when they use chemicals,” he said. “There are too many persons spraying in slippers, too many persons not being able to protect themselves from the chemicals and the detrimental impacts from the fumes of the gas they are utilising to increase production and productivity.”
Caesar said St Vincent and the Grenadines is a beautiful country that was placed in a region that has a lot to offer to the rest of the world.
However, he said that too many countries were putting up “artificial trade barriers” that were having negative impacts on small island developing states like SVG.
And he said that the expo was a good way of saying thank you to all the hardworking farmers and fishers, so that they have an opportunity to showcase their work.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves also delivered remarks at this week’s event.
He took the opportunity to highlight the positive developments within the agricultural sector, but he also noted the work that still needed to be done.
“I am very happy that I’m here. You go around and you look at the children, they are well fed, people generally are well fed. Too many of us don’t exercise enough and too many of us eat too much and we get fat and we have to take care of that,” he said.
Gonsalves thanked all the regional and international agencies that have helped SVG to develop and he encouraged the professionals to continue doing good work.
“We have to plan properly…we have to develop our talents and skills…and we also have to take care of people…including those who don’t have enough to eat,” the prime minister said.
Agri Expo 2019 will end tomorrow.