ADPU shows benefits of  diversification
September 28, 2007

ADPU shows benefits of diversification

Farmers and persons interested in investing in the Agricultural sector have been given a first hand view of how they can earn tremendous benefits from the Agricultural Diversification Programme (ADP), following the showing of a film here on Monday.{{more}}

The film, produced by Landell Mills, highlights the main ways in which persons can diversify from banana production by investing in other crops.

“Previous to the assistance, I harvested in the sun and rain, lost a lot of my cartons through the rain. Now that I have a shed, I can harvest and do my packaging in the shed and minimize my loss. I now have the land completely fenced to keep out animals and thieves.” This was the testimony of a Wax Apple farmer, one of the 450 persons who have benefited from the programme.

Reuben Robertson, Chief Agricultural Officer (ag), said that the time has come for us to diversify from bananas because this country is not in a position to compete globally with primary products. According to Robertson, diversification will also allow farmers to obtain high prices for value added, compared with the primary products.

Minister of Agriculture, Montgomery Daniel, also impressed upon farmers that the diversification programme is an important strategy in the agricultural sector in this country, since the contribution of banana to the GDP has declined from 9% to a mere 2.9%.

Daniel emphasized that there are a number of initiatives that have been put in place to drive the agricultural sector, and in order for the sector to be sustainable, there must be a framework as to how these funds are to be executed.

“Are we finally seeing the beginning of such opportunities for us in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to begin to make investments that will target and address our national food meal in a way that will build our own ability to feed ourselves and to sustain our agriculture?” Ashley Cain, Manager of the ADPU, asked the farmers present.

According to Cain, what were deemed to be problems facing the agricultural sector in the past can be seen as opportunities.

“A lot of commodities which we have imported in our country and have come to rely on for our food and sustenance, some of them have contributed to greater hypertension and diabetes and other health problems at a national level,” Cain stated.

In 2006, there was an increase in the importation of meat and meat products. According to figures presented on Monday, $33.8 million was spent on imported meat and meat products, of which 79% was spent on poultry products.

“Our national food meals are met from domestic production and imports,” Robertson stated. “We must be able to look at the trend in imports to determine where we go with our domestic production,” he continued.

“We have to address the whole issue of meat and meat imports so that we can save the foreign exchange, create employment for our own people and at the same time have healthy food that we could eat to sustain our population,” Robertson explained.

The government will also be paying attention to fruit and vegetable crops which, according to him, have a direct link to the tourism industry and other growth sectors in this country.

Cain also took the opportunity to encourage farmers and other entrepreneurs to begin to use the resources available under the ADP.

Over 750 persons have so far applied for funding under the programme. 450 persons have benefited to date.