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Arrowroot needs more hands on deck

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Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel has again identified the lack as labour as the main factor affecting the local Arrowroot industry which has seen a consistent decline in the volume of export of that produce from US$680,000 in 2000 to US$240,000 in 2004. Exports had reached an alarming low of US$10,000 in 2002 and 2003. Daniel told SEARCHLIGHT that there is need for the development of mechanized harvesting if the industry is to reach its full potential.

While delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony for the workshop for Caribbean Experts on Agricultural Science, Technology and Innovation Systems (ST&I) last Monday, August 28, Minister Daniel called for help to developed this mechanized harvesting system for Arrowroot.{{more}}

Daniel told the gathering of agricultural innovation experts that the Government had invested over $5 million towards this cause but was “very unsuccessful” in their efforts.

Describing the workshop as timely, Daniel said that it is important for farmers on a whole not to be content with producing their crops using the same old methods because it leads to the same under-productivity that plagues the industry.

He lamented the “tremendous decrease” in agricultural grants and concessionary credits. “There are not many Godfathers around any more,” Daniel declared.

Meanwhile Opposition Leader Arhnim Eustace, speaking at an NDP press briefing on Tuesday, August 22, lashed out at the Government’s handling of the Arrowroot industry, berating what he believes to be $6 million spent for no good result. “A commodity like Arrowroot, where St. Vincent had a big name…” Eustace also brushed aside Government’s claim that there is a lack of labour. He suggested that not enough work was being done to maintain and advance this and other industries in the agricultural sector.

Over 30 agricultural experts gathered in St. Vincent this past week for the workshop, as they received training in the use of new scientific methods being developed for the agricultural sector.

ST&I Systems have been tested in Jamaica and Grenada to analyze studies in mango and Ginger and the Nutmeg industry respectively. While in St Vincent, a case study will be done on the local Banana industry.

The workshop was sponsored by the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and coordinated through the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

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