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Investment in livestock, fisheries, the way to go

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A call has been made for a turn to livestock as a viable income economic earner.{{more}}

Reuben Robertson, Chief Agricultural Officer, made the call at the opening ceremony of the Business and Agriculture Forum held as part of the Vincy Homecoming activities last Friday, October 23.

According to Robertson, some 30 years ago, the economy was heavily dependent on the agricultural sector.

In the crop sub-sector, the banana industry was the mainstay of the Vincentian economy, contributing as much as 8.5 per cent of the total 16.1 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product.

Agriculture, at the same time, contributed as high as 19.58 per cent to the GDP, according to Robertson.

“Some 30 years later, the crop sub-sector is still on top, but there has been a decline in the contribution of agriculture,” Robertson explained.

The new input of agriculture to the GDP in the country stands at 9.01 per cent with bananas contributing a mere 1.04 per cent.

“I am here to try to explain to you that the future exponential growth rests in the sleeping giants-namely fisheries and livestock,” said Robertson at the forum which was held at the new National Library Building.

In comparison, in 1989, the contributions made by fisheries and livestock were 1.82 and .93 per cent respectively; in 2008, the figures shrank to 1.15 and .48 per cent.

He further explained that in 2007, the value of crop export was EC$46.9 million. However, the food import bill stood at $157.15 million.

Meat and meat products were valued at $39.8 million, chicken and turkey: $22.47 million; pork: $3.1 million; beef: $2.64 million and mutton: $0.5 million.

In 2008, the crop exports declined to $35.8 million. However, the food import bill increased to $198.54 million.

“Can we as a small island state continue with this trend?” Robertson questioned.

He said that the Ministry of Agriculture, in recognition of the problem, commissioned a study on the possibilities of developing the fisheries and livestock industries.

“We have a blueprint for future plans,” Robertson said.

The Chief Agricultural Officer added that legislation has already been put in place to facilitate the livestock sector.

“Let us produce, process and eat more of what we produce,” he contended. (DD)

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