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25 per cent of Caribbean farm produce being stolen – Antiguan minister

25 per cent of Caribbean farm produce being stolen – Antiguan minister

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ST. JOHN’S, Antigua:- Minister of Agriculture Hilson Baptiste says that with 25 per cent of agricultural produce across the region being stolen, farmers might begin responding with violence.{{more}}

“… when you produce your food … and somebody go and harvest them, is not just cry you crying. You want to kill somebody,” Baptiste told media workers at the opening of the Caribbean Science-Media Sensitization Workshop, Friday.

“And one of these days, somebody is going to hurt somebody. And I will be celebrating that. … I will get the money to get good lawyers to defend them. It is hard out there,” the minister further told the workshop, ahead of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture.

“Twenty-five per cent of the produce in the Caribbean is being stolen and they find market for it,” he further said, citing United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation statistics.

He added that ruminants from Antigua and Barbuda are shipped to Guadeloupe.“It is a problem. Where is the media in all of this? Farmers’ tractors are being stripped of all the wires and coppers off it for export,” he said, noting some Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries’ recent suspension of copper exports.

“Where is the media to do a story on that and blow it up and follow-up story to follow-up story. And until the media do this, you are a talk shop. Until you can do that so, that people can feel your presence, you are a talk shop,” he said, as he challenged the media to use the workshop to produce something implementable.

“You want to work with agriculture, understand agriculture. Understand, … make us tick out there … I have been to several workshops that were just talk shops … They don’t put food on the table,” he said.

He said the region erred in going to the World Trade Organisation “and agree that they can dump anything in the region any time”.

He said the 15-member CARICOM can feed itself and while it cannot ban the importation of some produce from outside the region, it can use data to inform the intermittent curtailment of some importation.

Extra-regional conglomerates make millions in the region, but would not invest in the shipping needed to move produce across the Caribbean, even as local produce rots in some countries, as imported produce is cheaper.

Baptiste said agriculture in the region is also challenged by the disregard of successful policies which often accompany changes in government, while state bureaucrats sometimes create jobs for friends, but farmers do not benefit from initiatives.

This year’s Caribbean Week of Agriculture is being held under the theme “Celebrating Youth and Gender in Caribbean Agriculture – Each endeavouring all achieving”.

It runs from October 14 to 20, under the theme “Each endeavouring all achieving”. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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