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Agriculture has ‘very low position’ in Cabinets

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A Vincentian agriculture expert has decried the “very low position” of the sector in Cabinets across the region.{{more}}

“… if you ask any expert about the position of agriculture in the Cabinet, … most of the ministry of agriculture represent a very low position,” Jethro Greene, chief coordinator of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CAFAN) told SEARCHLIGHT on October 13.

He elaborated in an interview in Antigua on the sidelines of a media science workshop for regional journalists, on issues he raised during the workshop, ahead of Caribbean Week of Agriculture.

Greene had said in his presentation that across the region, the weakest ministers are often given the agriculture portfolio.

He told SEARCHLIGHT Antigua and Barbuda is an exception, where agriculture minister Hilson Baptiste “has made agriculture important”.

In Guyana, “because it is so important for a national thing, the minister of agriculture is a very high position,” Greene further said.

But Greene said that in St Vincent and the Grenadines, where former tourism minister Saboto Caesar was given the agriculture portfolio, “everybody told him it was a demotion and he made it a promotion”.

He said that because of its low status in national Cabinets, “People have very little interest in agriculture. It is seen as a very lowly position.”

To illustrate, Greene said the governments of the region declared a wellness revolution, “in isolation from agriculture”.

“The non-communicable diseases can be fought by people using healthy food that are produced within the region. But all they see is health. And agriculture is way below,” Greene said.

He further spoke of national budgetary allocations to agriculture across the region.

“… it is a low priority in a lot of countries.”

Green said that a few years ago, when he travelled across the region, ministries of planning officials could comment about his continued involvement in agriculture.

“These days, people are inviting me all over the world to talk about agriculture. … The reality is this wasn’t happening 10, 15 years ago,” he said, adding, “ People didn’t want to see you [when you] make an appointment”.

He said that in SVG, his organisation has partnered with the Chamber of Commerce’s nutrition committee and promotes eating a particular locally grown fruit each month.

“But we are playing catch up. So many negative things happen in the sector that we still have a long way to go,” Greene told SEARCHLIGHT. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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