Agricultural Economics conference in session
July 19, 2011

Agricultural Economics conference in session

For the first time since its inception, the West Indies Agricultural Economics Conference is being held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

The biennial conference opened on Sunday, July 17, and will host some 60 – 80 local, regional and international participants.

Coordinated locally by the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Transformation, Forestry and Fisheries, the conference aims to address the challenges that the industry faces, following the decline of banana and sugar production.

Dr. Carlisle Pemberton, President of the Caribbean Agro-Economic Society, said: “We need to develop alternative agri-enterprises that would be able to replace those enterprises that have suffered from the changed protection regime, particularly under the European Union…”

Pemberton spoke about some of the successes that the conference has had over the years and touched on the possibilities of linking agriculture with tourism, and employing agri-business as a means to alleviate poverty.

Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel, in his remarks, said that there are several issues that he would like to see addressed.

These issues include: attracting the next generation of persons involved in every stage of the agri-business sector; strategies for increasing profitability and decreasing risks associated with agri-business; and changing current negative attitudes towards the sector.

“There needs to be a more focused approach to this sector,” he insisted.

Also giving remarks was Girlyn Miguel, Deputy Prime Minister, who pointed out that communities in the rural and urban areas “depend heavily” on how well conferences like this one address the challenges of production, distribution and consumption.

Miguel noted that the local economy is still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Tomas, which caused an estimated $86.1 million in damage to the agricultural and rural industry.

The costs of this damage were then exacerbated by a freak storm earlier this year, which mostly affected the north windward side of the island.

Addressing the organisers and participants of the conference, she added: “Help us to understand what is required for success and to craft workable solutions, as we… make our way in the world as a Caribbean people.”

Miguel also praised the efforts of local small agri-business owners and encouraged others to follow suit.

“All these initiatives and others under consideration are fertile ground for collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and premier agricultural research and technology development insitutions in the Caribbean and beyond,” she said.

The conference will conclude on Thursday, July 21. Its major objectives include: the creation of a forum for the examination of all agricultural institutions, policies, systems and practices in the region; and to focus attention on the economic problems of agricultural production and marketing, with a view to improving economic efficiency.