Agriculture has been the backbone of the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for its entire existence. But, the present administration seems to have lost faith in agriculture. They pay lip service to it and they do not put resources in place. They have no plan or objectives for the next ten (10) to fifteen (15) years to rebuild agriculture.
President of the New Democratic Party, Honourable Dr Godwin Friday, made the following remarks on his weekly radio program: “They talk a lot about diversifying around bananas, but they have done nothing to make that happen. All of a sudden, I saw a news release where the Minister of Agriculture was talking about hotels coming and we have to raise the production of local produce because there is going to be a greater demand for those produce here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and he wants to make sure that they are supplied here and are not imported. Ask him, what has he been doing to make that happen? Ask him, what has he been doing to get the fisherfolk organised so they can provide seafood here for the establishments that he has been bragging about? Ask him, what has he done to reassure the farmers of this country that the government has their interest at heart and they know what they are doing to rebuild agriculture?
Sobato Caesar is failing as the Minister of Agriculture because agriculture continues to decline as a percentage of our Gross Domestic Product and in terms of what the government puts into it from our National Budget to revive it. If you are not going to invest in it, then it is going to decline.
There are many things that people have pointed out that needs to be done which are simply not being done. What they are talking about is a container here and there that they want to export, whether its dasheen one day, plantain another day and fish the next day. You cannot build an economy based on this kind of haphazard and ad hoc approach to the development of this vital pillar.
We have said that agriculture is an essential pillar of our economy. We are going to continue to develop ideas so that they are front and centre in the program for the future of this country and of the New Democratic Party. The manifesto that we are preparing for the next general elections will reflect that. But understand this; we are going to always look for the best and the most effective ways of delivering programs. When we put something in our manifesto, it tells you that we are going to do it. If we find that there are better ways, we would use what we have there and expand on it as we go forward, as we learn more.
Part of the learning process is to hear from the people, to hear from the farmers, to hear from people who are interested in agriculture. Where is the Marketing Board? Where is the National Development Bank to provide credit to farmers? How do the farmers get input? How are they going to market their commodities? Who is going to take the risk when they plant their crops and they reap six (6) months or nine (9) months later? Who is going to tell them that the market conditions on which they planted are going to exist nine (9) months later? Why should the farmers take all the risk? There has to be a mechanism to help even out those bumps and to make sure that farming is viable?”
The following is a release by the NDP on agriculture: President of the NDP and Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Dr Godwin Friday, has visited Kingstown Vegetable Markets to highlight the importance of the agricultural sector, as a pillar of the economy.
The visit comes through following Dr Friday’s speech at the NDP Hope Rally, in which he offered hope by building an economy that will create more and better jobs. The economic plan is centred on four pillars, – agriculture, tourism, the blue economy and the new economy.
Dr Friday and other members of the NDP will be making a number of visits to farmers to listen to them and discuss the challenges they face.
As part of the Dr Friday’s plan to make agriculture a pillar of the economy, the NDP would boost investment in the sector and create much-needed jobs for persons across the country.
The plan to rebuild agriculture includes:
Develop a cooperative system to help farmers purchase inputs at lower cost;
Provide financing for new equipment to make farmers more productive;
Focus on developing high-value crops;
Increase domestic markets by encouraging hotels to buy local produce;
Zero tolerance for praedial larceny;
Develop our Agro Processing Sector with a focus on overseas markets ensuring there are sustainable export markets abroad;
Assist farmers to engage in organic farming to fetch higher prices for their produce;
Develop a Marketing Agency to market farm produce;
Our agricultural plan will ensure that there is a sustainable and efficient food security system, which will be geared towards a significant reduction in our food import bill.
Dr Friday has said, “Under an NDP Government, agriculture will play a vital part in growing our economy. Agriculture is part of our brighter future.”
Senator Israel Bruce the Party’s shadow minister for Agriculture said: “Agriculture is a key part of the NDP’s plan to build the economy by getting more goods to markets and increasing export. This will create many more jobs, directly and indirectly.”
The NDP is committed to reversing growing unemployment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by providing the skills and opportunities young people need to thrive here.