Lifting agriculture higher in 2014
December 20, 2013
Lifting agriculture higher in 2014

Fri Dec 20, 2013

By Hon. Saboto S.Caesar

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation

I take this opportunity to wish all Vincentians at home and abroad a blessed Christmas. In a season of adoration and love, we thank, firstly, Almighty God for sparing us in 2013 from the ravishing winds, droughts and tempest floods associated with the significant changes in our world’s climatic conditions.{{more}}

In the year 2013 we witnessed several noteworthy successes:

(1) An increase in the production and export of non-banana commodities, impacting the purchasing of a vessel with twice the capacity to ply the trade to the Trinidad and Tobago market. The implementation of the SVG Agri-Export Strategy Initiative will continue in 2014, which will include the preparation of our farmers to harness the significant export opportunities through our international airport upon its completion.

(2) The development of our cattle export trade to Grenada with the unprecedented exportation of over 200 heads in one year; new markets for cattle are being finalized in at least two other OECS territories to be explored by our farmers in 2014.

(3) Farmers in arrowroot production received for the first time $1.00 per pound for rhizomes, a significant increase, compared to 35 cents and 50 cents per pound in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Further, through negotiations by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Arrowroot Association with US purchasers, the US$2.00 per pound increase in the price for starch was obtained. Hence, a price increase from US$5.00 per pound in 2011 to US$7.00 per pound in 2013. A project is to be launched in January 2014 to research “medicinal arrowroot”.

(4) 22,000 lbs of fish exported to the US market in one of the largest recorded single shipments to North America.

(5) A 40 foot container of vacuumed packed root crops exported, utilizing the vacuum packing technology at Vincy Fresh in Lauders. The largest shipment ever from SVG of this kind. This created an improved opportunity for farmers to sell root crops at great prices during the first half of the year.

(6) We were able to control the presence of Black Sigatoka by reducing the cronshaw levels to under 2, thereby setting the platform for us to increase production in 2014.

(7) An Agri-tourism desk was established and the formalization of a Cocoa, Condiments and Spices Unit continued. The spice industry has significant potential.

(8) Distribution of 10,000 tree crops to farmers in a national post-Tomas rehabilitation exercise.

(9) International recognition by the FAO of our efforts to reduce hunger and undernourishment from 21,000 in 1990-1992 to 5,000 in 2010-2012.

(10) Commencement of the exportation of tissue culture produced material from our tissue culture facility at Orange Hill.

These are just a few among so many other successes.


The Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year 2014 were approved in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, December 10, 2013. The Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Transformation, Forestry, Fisheries and Industry was allocated a total of $42.1 million, comprising recurrent expenditure of $25.5 million and capital expenditure of $18.6 million. The total budgeted allocation in 2014 amounts to $8.1 million or 24 per cent more than the sum allocated in the 2013 budget. There is a $2.4 million increase in recurrent spending and a $5.8 million rise on the capital side.


Of the 16 recurrent programmes in the Ministry in 2014, the most resourced is that of the Banana Services Unit, $6.5 million, followed by the Forestry Division of $2.5 million, and then the Extension and Advisory Services with $2.3 million. The bulk of the spending in the Banana Services Unit is devoted to ensuring that plant diseases, especially the Black Sigatoka, are kept at bay: $2.99 million is to be spent on operating and maintenance services and $2.5 million for supplies and materials.

The Ministry is well-staffed with highly-trained professionals. In the seven recurrent programmes specifically dedicated to agriculture, there are 68 professionals. Additionally, there are 21 professionals in the Animal Health and Production Division and 30 professionals in Forestry. These are distinct from the 20 administrative staff in general administration in the Ministry. Clearly, focussed and productive work by the Ministry’s professional and non-professional staff is vital in achieving the results of increased productivity and enhanced competitiveness in the agricultural sector. The endeavours of the Ministry’s staff are necessary, though not sufficient, to effect an uplift in agriculture.


On the capital side of the Ministry’s budget are the following critical projects, among others:

1. Agricultural Modernisation and Development Programme, financed mainly through a grant of $32 million by the European Union over a 36-month period under the rubric “Banana Accompanying Measures” (BAM). In 2014, an estimated $4.8 million is scheduled to be spent on this project.

2. The Farmers’ Support Revolving Fund of $6 million, financed under the PetroCaribe Fund and to be administered through the Farmers’ Support Company Limited, a wholly-owned state company. This Revolving Fund will provide loans to farmers at a minimal interest rate of two per cent to enable farmers to purchase fertiliser, feeds, farm inputs and implements, and to pay for farm labour. Some 600 farm workers will be employed as we establish a National Farm Labour Program. The government intends to capitalise the company with other assets, including more money. This is a new project that will bring great benefits to our farmers.

3. A $3.6 million allocation, mainly from the CDB-BNTF7, for a series of small, rural infrastructure projects.

4. A $0.63 million allocation for the upgrade of agricultural extension stations.

5. A $0.67 million allocation for conservation of the St Vincent parrot.

6. A $0.2 million allocation to upgrade the Plant and Animal Health Laboratory Capability and Infrastructure.

7. A $0.15 million contribution as coco production support.


The major targeted results of the Ministry are those set out in eight pages in the Estimates under the rubric “2014 Result Indicators”. Among these are the following for agriculture:

  • Continue the implementation of the cocoa project in collaboration with Amajaro and the farmers of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
  • Complete the operationalisation of the Agricultural Training Institute by March 2014.
  • Establish and operate the Cocoa, Condiments and Spices Unit.
  • Better facilitate the implementation of the Agricultural Modernisation and Development Programme.
  • Establish and operate at least one Greenhouse Park by December 2014.
  • Strengthen a viable commercial broiler industry in collaboration with the private sector.
  • Implementation of an altered marketing initiative for non-banana produce with WINFRESH.
  • Enhance quality and production in the Animal Health and Production Division particularly in respect of poultry, pigs, small ruminants, and cattle.
  • Produce thousands of vitro plantlets in specified quantities through the Bio-Technology Unit for Bananas, Orchids, Dasheens, Pineapples, Cassavas, Sweet Potatoes, Yams and Tannias.
From the Extension and Advisory Services do the following:
  • Increase production and productivity of vegetable, root crop and tree crops on 40 selected farms by 20 percent in 2014;
  • Provide technical and support services to 2000 farmers in 2014;
  • Increase production of honey by 10 percent by December 2014.
  • Through the Banana Services Unit do the following:
  • Export a minimum of 2,000 metric tonnes of bananas through a core group of farmers and 1,100 metric tonnes to the regional markets for 2014;
  • Establish a Core Farmer Programme with 40 Fairtrade Global Gap Certified Farmers and 200 acres to export bananas to the UK by December 2014;
  • Provide Fruit Quality Assurance for the Core Group of Farmers attaining 90 per cent Within Specifications (PUWS) and 85 per cent Consistency to the UK;
  • Improve the management of Black Sigatoka to attain Cronshaw levels below 2.5;
  • Maintain an average of 9 healthy leaves on each banana plant;
  • Provide a minimum application of six aerial cycles complemented by weekly ground crew spraying in 2014; and
  • Enhance soil and water conservation with specific published targets for contour drains, run-off drains, grass barriers, bench terraces, and the construction of greenhouses.
  • Upgrade research and development with specific published targets for the Crop Research Unit, Plant Protection Unit Agri-Product Development Unit, and Bio Technology Unit.


All the stakeholders are required to lift their game. To this end, the Ministry is enhancing its efforts with the farmers, farmers’ organisations, farm workers, WINFRESH, the supermarkets and other market outlets, the private sector exporters (including “the traffickers”), the funding agencies, regional and international agricultural support entities, banks/credit unions/finance in­sti­tu­tions, the Inputs Warehouse Company, the inter-island shippers, and the various Ministries, especially the Ministry of Works. In the latter regard, the rehabilitation of feeder roads would commence in early 2014.

The Ministry is determined to do a good job. The year 2013 brought several successes, though much better can be done. In the final analysis, farmers and farm-workers are required to cultivate the crops competitively for the market. Thus, we are all together in this vital exercise of wealth and job creation in agriculture. Let us remember this: The days of preferential markets for bananas or other agricultural commodities are over. We must accept market realities and be competitive in price, quality, and product type. Anyone who says otherwise is engaged in a gigantic hoax on the people. The charge to diversify the agriculture sector with bananas will continue in 2014. To be sure, we may seek favourable market niches, but we must still be extremely competitive if we are to survive and thrive.

The 2014 Estimates are designed to uplift agriculture. Our efforts must be renewed and our faith strengthened as we take the agricultural sector to one of even greater prominence in 2014! A blessed Christmas and a happy new year.