Minister plans to move discusion away from banana to diversification in 2014
December 17, 2013
Minister plans to move discusion away from banana to diversification in 2014

Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar says that he does not intend to debate the banana situation in the upcoming year, but instead will be placing more emphasis on agricultural diversification.{{more}}

Caesar, speaking last Friday, said that he and his ministry will be playing their part in the country’s move towards zero hunger and undernourishment, and not on the banana industry as a main industry, as the ministry moves forward.

The minister made the comment at a ceremony for the handing over of the Orange Hill horticultural project to his ministry, by the Taiwanese agricultural mission.

“The Government and the Ministry of Agriculture in 2014 will be emphasizing the trend that we have to continue to diversify with bananas. I am not going to, in 2014, be engaging in a discussion which was supposed to pre-exist 1992,” the minister stated.

“We have passed the ruling of the banana case by the World Trade Organisation. We are fully aware of the preferential treatment that we have experienced, and it continues to play a significant, negative role in the production of bananas, not only in St Vincent and the Grenadines, but also in the Windwards.

“So, I am not going to entertain, in 2014, a discussion as if the banana case did not take place, and I am using that as the basis to envelop a full fledged discussion on the issue of how do we diversify the agricultural sector, what commodities we are going to be focusing, and how we are going to increase the production and productivity in those commodities.”

The minister stated that this country’s diversification process would be greatly assisted by the tissue culture laboratory at Orange Hill, which was handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture in 2010.

He noted that work is already in progress at the lab, in getting some produce ready for local mass production.

“I just want the farmers to fully appreciate and understand that without the tissue culture lab, I would have had to do like what another island in the Windwards is doing now. They have to import a 40-foot container of English potatoes in order to get the planting material.

“But on the advice of Rohan McDowall at the tissue culture lab, he said ‘you don’t need to bring a 40-foot container of the potatoes, we can just source the potatoes, we can do the work in the lab and provide you in about six months time the requisite quantities you would need by the first six months in 2014 to have your trial plots.

“We are targeting certain areas and districts that would have had a history in onions for example. We are going to target those areas and this is all said to show us that the cooperation between the people of the government of Taiwan is a real one and is going to and continue to bear real fruits,” Caesar said. (JJ)