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Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar.
Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar.

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 14, IWN – It will cost the government $10 million to take 1,000 acres of bananas from planting to harvesting this year.

The banana is scheduled to be cultivated Under the Banana Revitalisation Programme from April to December, Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar told Parliament.

“I know that the Leader of the Opposition [has] noted here in Parliament that there is a cost of about $40 million that he was suggesting to be expended in the Banana Revitalisation Programme. He did not detail the source from which he was suppose to get the funding and he did not detail the cost of production,” Caesar said.

Opposition leader Arnhim Eustace made the proposal after opposition officials visited farmers across the country last year.

Caesar said that of the $10 million, $2 million will be spent on field preparation and replanting.

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The Government, through the free plants from Ministry of Agriculture, will contribute EC$3.12 million.

“Many farmers do not know how expensive it is and the significant contribution of each plant — $4 per plant,” Caesar said.

He said the Banana Services Unit is also advising that farmers consult with extension officers since there are examples where farmers used with great success plant material from within their fields.

An EC$1.5 million credit facility has been established and financed by the National Insurance Services NIS and will become fully operationalized in the next two to three weeks, Caesar said.

The Small Farmers Assistance Programme 2013, funded by Food and Agriculture Organization and other agencies through the government has distributed $75,000 worth of inputs.

Caesar said that in terms of disease control, the Banana Services Unit has a vote of $4 million, aerial spraying continues, and ground teams are doing an excellent job in control of disease

He further said there was a proposal to reduce or waive the $4 per box levy on banana exported to the region.

Discussions are favourable, Caesar said, adding that he hopes that any reduction will be passed on to farmers as an increase in the price per box of banana.