Stakeholders benefit from Sweet Potato Value Chain workshop
September 23, 2014

Stakeholders benefit from Sweet Potato Value Chain workshop

Stakeholders within the various agriculture sectors of St Vincent and the Grenadines are now more familiar with what is a ‘value chain’ in the agricultural industry.

A one-day validation workshop on the topic was held on Tuesday, September 16, at the Fisheries conference room.{{more}}

The Value Added Chain approach emphasizes the market and the extent of consumer demand and identifies interventions in the chain, necessary to meet the demand. Importantly, emphasis is placed on collaboration through the chain, with all stakeholders working in a participatory way to identify steps to be taken to strengthen the capacity of the chain to meet the demand.

The workshop was facilitated by consultant to the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Trinidadian Aziz Mohammed and Renato Gumbs, senior agricultural officer within the Ministry of Agriculture, who is also the national coordinator for the project.

St Vincent and the Grenadines is among six CARICOM countries that are benefiting from the initiative. The other countries included are: St Kitts/Nevis, Dominica, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad.

CARDI, in conjunction with the Centre for Technical Co-operation in Agriculture (CTA), based in Holland, over a year ago implemented a value chain project.

The objective of the project, according to Mohammed, is to develop a methodology, analysing roots and tubers in the Caribbean region for food security.

The local leg of the project got underway in February of this year when a survey was conducted among all those involved in the value chain. These include input suppliers, producers, traffickers (exporters), retailers and consumers.

That information was then collated and analysed and was presented during Tuesday’s workshop.

“The objective was to get feedback from the respective stakeholders and to be able to identify what are the opportunities in terms of the sweet potato value chain, which is the commodity chosen by this country, and so to identify what are the challenges that are holding back the development of a competitive industry,” Mohammed explained.

“The findings of that particular survey were presented in the morning session and the stakeholders were given an introduction into value chains and its importance to agriculture and what value chain analysis is about.

“We also sought to identify and get feedback from those stakeholders what are some of the opportunities for the development of the potato industry and more importantly, the constraints and how we address these constraints. And from that we expect the development of action plans, in terms of taking the industry forward,” the consultant added.

Mohammed further disclosed that a sweet potato value chain committee will soon be formed, which will have the responsibility for basically implementing the action plans that were arrived at from the various stakeholders that were present.

Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar, who applauded the initiative, advised that in order for a value chain to be successful, there must be an enhancement in the relationship between farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture.

“I want to encourage farmers in St Vincent and the Grenadines, particularly those who are investing in sweet potatoes, roots and tubers, that we have to enhance our relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture. For many years, many farmers have been producing excellent quality.

“However, with the onset of new diseases and pests, we must recognize the critical importance of partnering with the technicians in the Ministry of Agriculture…”

The Agriculture Minister also commended CARDI for their “in-depth work,” as it relates to research and development in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to a recent report from CARDI, roots and tubers have been identified by the CARICOM region as a major contributor in the efforts to reduce the US$4 billion annual food import bill and to increase the levels of food and nutrition security.