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Agriculture Minister urges Vincentians to ‘buy local’

Agriculture Minister urges  Vincentians  to ‘buy local’

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At the launch of the Cooperatives Farmers’ Market last week, the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Transformation, Forestry, Fisheries and Industry implored of Vincentians to support local agriculture by giving farmers first preference when buying produce.

Saboto Caesar, while speaking at the project launch on Friday, {{more}}December 12 at Heritage Square, appealed to the corporate sector in particular to continue to play its part in supporting local agricultural cooperatives.

“Buy local first,” he implored. “Do not pass the local farmers by! It may sound like something you always hear – buy local – but this is so critically important to national growth and development that it is worth repeating every time we speak about agriculture.”

Caesar said that the success of the initiative, which was two years in the making, is dependant on how all the various stakeholders work together.

“It is that strength that resides in unity that is going to propel the cooperatives’ initiative to play a greater role in the development of agriculture in this country.”

He further pointed out that the agriculture industry is just as important as the tourism industry, as the two are inextricably linked.

“Any expansion in tourism will create an increase in the demand for food,” he explained.

“When we increase the production of food locally, we do not only decrease the food importation bill, but we also address… hunger and under-nourishment.”

The project, which will be implemented in January 2015, will see cooperatives’ member farmers coming together to sell their produce at regularly scheduled events throughout each month. Dates and times will be announced in upcoming weeks.

Also delivering an address at the launch was Frederick Stephenson, Minister of National Mobilisation, Social Development, Family, Gender Affairs, Persons with Disabilities and Youth.

Stephenson challenged the various cooperatives that comprise this farmers’ market initiative to remain united in their efforts, and to resist undermining each other by selling their produce outside the cooperative for a lower price.

“We are hoping that this ‘marriage’ that was started will continue for many years,” he stated.

He also took the opportunity to warn people against theft of produce and praedial larceny, mentioning that the law has become more strict in regard to punishing offenders, as well as those who purchase from offenders.

The launch also saw remarks from Chin Yu Lee, representative from the Taiwan Technical Mission, which is working alongside the cooperatives, the Ministry of Agriculture and all the other stakeholders making the intiative possible.

Lee said that the Taiwan Technical Mission’s involvement in the project is three-fold; in that it seeks to strengthen laboratories (soil, pathology etc), improve cultivation techniques on specialised crops (pineapple, watermelon, carrots etc), and strengthen the farmers’ organisations.

He added that eventually he hopes this project will allow the cooperatives to operate independently, and will benefit the more rural communities.

Caesar also briefly spoke about the benefits of having an international airport to the agricultural industry. He explained that it would allow produce to be transported internationally in a shorter space of time – hence ensuring that the produce is still fresh when it arrives on the market.

Also giving brief remarks were Ashley Cain, chief agricultural officer; Cecil Jackson, registrar of cooperatives; Nioka Abbott, president of Women in Agriculture Langley Park Cooperative; and Checzley Scipio, vice president of South Windward Action Producers Cooperative. (JSV)

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