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Traditional cultivators will not be forgotten – Minister Caesar

Traditional cultivators will not be forgotten – Minister Caesar
Saboto Caesar, Minister of Agriculture

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Cannabis stories by Kirby Jackson

The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), remains committed to the traditional cannabis cultivators and they will not be forgotten or left out of the budding medicinal cannabis industry.

This is the reassurance given by minister of agriculture, Saboto Caesar as he called for patience and tolerance as this “fresh trajectory” regarding cannabis cultivation unfolds.

Minister Caesar said that he was encouraged by his recent meeting with the amalgamated SVG Cannabis Revival Community Co-operative Ltd, a grouping of traditional cannabis cultivators. Caesar was a guest on The Press Room, SEARCHLIGHT’s online discussion programme on Wednesday, May 11 and spoke in the wake of the launch last week Friday, May 6 of this country’s first cannabis consumption lounge. He said it was important for him to calm all fears regarding foreign investments in the medicinal Cannabis industry.

“Let us not look negatively on the persons who are investing millions in the industry,” minister Caesar said. While admitting that traditional farmers will face challenges moving from a profitable illicit trade to a legalised, industrialised operation, the long road will be worth it.

He said that the government always intended to make sure that traditional farmers benefit from the new industry, evidenced by the very inclusion of the term “traditional cultivators” in the framing of the legislation.

Additionally, that the government has been applauded by its counterparts in other jurisdictions for deliberately carving out a space for traditional cultivators in the new dispensation. The minister said that while people may look suspiciously at the foreign investments, he believes that those investments will be the “tide that’s going to lift all ships” in the value chain.

This fear of marginalization of the traditional cultivators, who risked arrest and jail in operating their illicit trade, is however one shared by many including Dr. Williams Warren Smith, former president of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

In February, 2020 he noted that while the opportunity to capitalise on this industry is good for regional economies he believes a close eye must be kept on the way the returns of the industry are distributed.

  “My concern is the legitimisation of this product should not put our countries in a situation where that new area of production becomes dominated by foreign interest and our people, especially our small people, do not benefit from this new industry. We need to be real beneficiaries from this new industry,” Smith said.

Minister Caesar said the assistance that will be given to traditional cultivators will go beyond those who want to be part and parcel of the new industry. He said that the Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Programme that will be launched in the ministry of agriculture will also assist those who are not so inclined.

 “There may be a traditional cultivator who grew cannabis from the time he was 21 years old until he was 55 but his mindset is not to do cannabis anymore, he wants to get into cultivation of commodities like ginger and turmeric or get into the fishing industry.”

The minister said that the traditional cultivators need not wonder where they stand as the industry moves forward.

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