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Why are we importing frozen vegetables?

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“I hope that when your country (Great Britain) joins the European Union that it will not relinquish her obligation to protect our special arrangement as it relates to our bananas entering the United Kingdom.” – That was a part of what Premier Milton Cato said in Parliament when we became an Associated State with Britain in 1968.

EDITOR: Time, they say, waits for no one. Now, 37 years later, where are we as it relates to the future of this all-so-vital industry?{{more}} Defenseless! Without a plan for its future. Yet, with every single passing day we are obliged to sign onto International and Regional treaties that threaten to strip the very last piece of the remnants we need to economically survive with pride.

Do we really have to be in this shameful position? To accept that we are left in a take-it-or-leave-it situation is tantamount to accepting that as a people we are worthless. One shudders to think that such a day should ever occur. It shall never.

Day one of 2006 will usher in a heightened demand on the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to start the process of laying a solid foundation as a response to World Series Cricket in 2007, the building of international airport, large hotels, inputs in tourism and an healthy diet for Vincentians. We need to know urgently the FOODS we ought to produce in sufficiently large quantities and quality year round. We could and should start immediately. We must starve out the people who continue to drive large and larger screws into the coffin of our bananas and other agriculture produce.

These times call for a new order and understanding of agriculture. We don’t have to go very far to find a law firm or doctors and other professionals. The call is for a private sector company of specialists in agriculture to provide information on planting, when to harvest and visits in advance of harvesting. In advance of all of this we need to procure planting materials that are suited to our climate.

To complement all of the above is the demand for a sufficiently large holding facility with the required environment to salvage and crate the produce for trade and commerce.

The challenges are many but they could be very easily addressed. There is still a very large amount of pretty flat, quality lands idle on mainland St. Vincent and also in the Grenadines. Manpower is considered to be the most difficult hindrance but it could be fixed. Most of the lands could be prepared by farm tractors. If in truth and in fact there is a shortage of manpower – there is a large amount of manpower behind bars who could be paid to fill the breach. The crops in mind should be ready in two to three months. Once a farmer is assured that his crop will be purchased we can now move on to the final stage.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the only reason why the thrust towards food processing at the cottage level has not yet started is linked to the unavailability of a place from which to work. The cost of building or renting and renovating is unthinkable. In fact, there is a hell of a lot more wisdom for the government to build these work places (exclusively for processing what is produced in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and nothing else) in advance of houses.

The government has within its mortal hands the ability to determine the period of time for these buildings to be paid for and adjust the rent/lease accordingly.

Stanley M. Quammie

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