Arrowroot farmers in St. Vincent are concerned that unless something is done urgently, the local industry will continue losing much needed finance.
One of these concerns is the establishment of a new arrowroot factory, something they the arrowroot farmers have been looking forward to for some time.
Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT Newspaper, Calvert Millar a director of the Arrowroot Farmers Association said, “Every year, government [has] been subsidising this industry, and we know after a time, it will have to stop. The industry will have to stand on its own. We have an old factory which is not up to par, and it is not up to Eurogap standards. We do not have any hazard certificate, so the big problem is that we cannot produce a product to sell on the international market”.
Millar, who is also an arrowroot farmer said: “We cannot get the starch sold on the international market because we do not have the hazard certificate because the old factory is not up to standards, and we cannot get one with that old factory”.
Construction work had begun on a new factory at Orange Hill but was halted by the volcanic eruptions which caused significant damage to the work already done as well as to equipment and supplies.
The new factory was scheduled for completion by year end.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Nerissa Gittens-McMillan, said with clearance having been given for people to return to communities in the Red Zone, this will pave the way for construction to resume.
A company has been awarded the contract to clear the construction site of ash, and should commence work in the first week of next month.
Chief Agricultural Officer Renato Gumbs, said: “Basically what we have done is that we have started construction coming out of the ground.
We were coming up with the foundation building, the platform to establish the steel frame, but we had to halt that because of the ash.”
Millar is not optimistic that the factory will be completed soon but feels, “if we can get the factory completed by 2022, that would be great because we would be able to compete and sell our starch on the international market.
“It would be a modern factory, and we would be doing things different”.
He said the starch would take a shorter time to dry and there will be a better quality finished product for export.
“We can make the factory self-sufficient; we could be sustainable; we would not have to go to government every time to beg them.”
Millar spoke of offers th e association has received for the purchase starch, but the absence of the relevant certification has prevented such sales from taking place.
“A pound of starch on the international market is US$15.00 – US$20.00 a pound. Who would pay that kind of money on the local market for starch?” Millar asked. “We have to sell it at a price the people can afford but that is at a loss to us.”
He said he and the other arrowroot farmers are waiting for the factory to be completed and are already planting a new variety, the yield of which is more viable economically to the farmers, and the industry as a whole.