September 12, 2014
Butternut squash to be grown in SVG for export to United Kingdom

Butternut squash is among a number of commodities that will take the diversification of crops in St Vincent and the Grenadines to another level.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Agriculture announced the start of a programme which will see farmers in this country growing butternut squash {{more}}for export to the United Kingdom.

Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar told journalists on Wednesday that a critical part of the agricultural thrust in St Vincent and the Grenadines focuses on the idea of diversification around and with bananas.

“The banana industry has been significantly impacted in a negative way by diseases and by the impacts of climate change. It is critical that we have a well planned, structured and conceived diversification programme,” Caesar said.

The Agriculture Minister also explained how the new initiative came about, making reference to a memorandum of understanding that was signed with WINFRESH almost three months ago to develop and implement an export strategy initiative.

“It is of great interest that WINFRESH started a very important partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture to diversify around bananas and the marketing of the commodity by first signing an MOU for St Vincent and the Grenadines to export some six 40-foot containers of several commodities to the United Kingdom. This will be marketed by WINFRESH,” he said.

The first commodity being planted is butternut squash, which Caesar noted is heavily imported into St Vincent and the Grenadines from the United States of America.

“Firstly, this thrust is targeting and has as a key objective to reduce the imports of butternut squash into St Vincent and the Grenadines. It is one thing to have an export strategy and that export strategy is one that we are going forward with, but we also have to take into consideration, that we have to produce more and we have to consume more of what we produce. Therefore, the first objective is to reduce the imports of butternut squash into St Vincent and the Grenadines when we increase our local production,” he said.

“I have been advised by the technical persons in the Ministry that there are several farmers in St Vincent and the Grenadines who have a history with butternut squash. Thus far, we have some 20 acres already earmarked and 15 farmers who are willing to start the programme.”

Caesar added that it is the intention that the export of butternut squash be an ongoing occurrence, which will take place every week once export is started.

“It is not going to be a one-off export. It is going to be something that will take place every week. Therefore, the technicians within the Ministry, they are working out the programmes, so that they can place the intervals for planting, so that we can have the requisite quantities available to secure a market space in the United Kingdom coming from St Vincent and the Grenadines on a weekly basis,” he said

Philbert Goul, officer responsoble for vegetable production in Ministry, stated that the temperature and land in St Vincent is ideal for the cultivation of butternut squash.

He also noted that the crop takes about three months to mature abd that he does not foresee farmers meeting much difficulty.

The first 15 farmers are expected to receive their seeds today.

“They will also be assisted with fertilizer and several person from the Ministry of Agriculture will be assigned to work with them to ensure that the quality that is needed for export and not only the quality, but that they follow the proper technical knowledge so that we can have the proper yields per care. Once we have the proper yields, then it is going to be a profitable exercise for all of us,” Caesar said.

Other commodities involved in this initative include hot peppers, sweet potatoes and onions. Farmers who wish to produce any of these commodities are asked to express their interest at any of the agricultural stations across the country or the Ministry of Agriculture in Kingstown. (BK)