FARMERS IN St Vincent and the Grenadines, seem to have had enough of what they say is a rip off at the hands of traffickers.
So much so that “farmers are now revolting against traffickers.”
This revelation came from Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves as he made his weekly appearance on NBC Radio’s Face to Face programme on Wednesday April 6.
The Prime Minister said he recently had conversations with farmers in his constituency of North Central Windward who complained to him that they are being taken advantage of by traffickersmiddle men who purchase their produce usually to export.
Based on a proposal from the farmers, Dr Gonsalves said Cabinet has decided to revitalise the Marketing Corporation to assist farmers with the sale of their fresh produce.
“It is all well and good to say the farmers must know which traffickers are honest, those which deal with them fairly, and those which do not, but they are looking at an alternative proposition.”
The Prime Minister said the decision was taken to revitalise the Marketing Corporation, “but in a new period, and of a different kind.”
On Wednesday, he assured farmers that this new venture “is being explored,” with the intention of having the farmers and government working together.
The New Marketing Corporation will purchase produce from farmers and make arrangements for export of said produce.
Dr Gonsalves reminded listeners that there was a previous Marketing Corporation, which also had a supermarket.
He accused the former New Democratic Party (NDP) administration of using the supermarket like a “corner shop” and causing its deterioration.
Gonsalves said that his administration tried in the past to revive the Marketing Corporation, “but it was difficult.”
“Now we are seeing the farmers revolting against the traffickers because of how many of them behaving in relation to the farmers.”
SEARCHLIGHT has learnt that the main problem between farmers and traffickers is the issue of price.
“Most times, they want to pay us next to nothing for our produce, and they turn around and sell for big money.
“So we who do all the hard work get very little to take home to our families,” a farmer related.
A female farmer in the South Central Windward Constituency last December recounted that she had a field of dasheen ready for harvest and she was being offered $EC40.00 a sack. She related having to pay $40.00 for each portion of a day that a labourer works in addition to the cost of other inputs. Her decision was to give the dasheen to family and other villagers because selling to traffickers at that price was “a waste of time”.
Other farmers have related having to wait for weeks sometimes after handing over their produce before they receive payment from traffickers.
According to the Prime Minister, Agriculture Minister, Saboto Caesar is in favour of the decision to revitalise the Marketing Corporation.