THE SITE AT Orange Hill earmarked for the construction of a new arrowroot factory and administrative complex
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December 16, 2022
SVG aiming to expand arrowroot markets following completion of new factory (+ video)

In 2019, the starch produced by arrowroot grown on the northeastern side of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) managed to fetch as much as US$7.35 per pound on the US market.

But competition, from Thailand specifically, forced the St. Vincent Arrowroot Association out of that market. Thailand’s tapioca produced starch sold for less than US$1 per pound.

“The competition was too much for us,” Manager of the St. Vincent Arrowroot Association, Selmon Walters explained to SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday, December 13, while adding that the new factory being built will focus on making sure all international standards are adhered to in an effort to sell to markets in Europe and other places.

The lone arrowroot factory in Owia was destroyed by the 2021 volcanic eruptions and the construction of a new factory at the administrative complex in Orange Hill was also halted by the eruptions.

Walters said on Tuesday that the government of India has provided US1$ million for the construction of the facility which when completed will have new equipment and be built to international standards.

Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves said on Tuesday, during the debate on the Estimates of Expenditure for 2023, said that EC$3.6 million would be spent next year on the revitalization of the Arrowroot Industry.

In the meantime, the starch which is stored, approximately 500,000 pounds, is being sold locally and regionally.

Walters said the local starch is of such a high quality starch that is being sold by other countries who claim their starch is from SVG.

MINISTER OF FINANCE, Camillo Gonsalves, during the debate on the Estimates of Expenditure for 2023

Regionally SVG’s starch is sold in the Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Tortola among other places, and in local supermarkets.

“It is in storage…it can last 10, 15, 20 years once it does not get wet…we did not have a market so we stored what we produced in 2018, 2019 and 2020 so that is why we can supply local and regional markets and do things like the Madongo fest,” Walters explained.

He said money from the starch being sold is used for maintenance purposes and the payment of some daily paid workers and that now amounts to only about EC$20,000 a year in sales.

However the figures are expected to increase when the new factory is completed. The old factory employed about 100 persons on rotation, now down to zero, while the administrative aspect of the business employs about 10 persons and around 10 field officers. The field officers have to make sure the plots are being maintained for when harvesting resumes.

“I am hopeful for the industry, the industry has a future. There is a market for the arrowroot starch not only locally and regionally but internationally, but we need a factory that can pass international standards,” Walters stressed.

He said in the past, SVG arrowroot starch could not access the European market because the factory at Owia was unable to meet the passing grade of overseas assessors.

“So that is why we will focus on these standards with the new factory,” Walters said.

He added that issues like branding and trade-marketing will also be explored.

RELATED ARTICLE: Arrowroot farmers in St. Vincent are concerned that the local  industry will continue losing much needed finance.