KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 19, IWN — If you are eating imported root crops in Trinidad and Tobago, there is a 98 per chance they were grown in St. Vincent.
Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar told Parliament last week that he and his Permanent Secretary visited a depot in Trinidad last month, where they learnt of the statistic.
“… in discussion with the board, it was noted that 98 per cent of the root crops imported into Trinidad and Tobago … are from St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Caesar said, adding that the root crops sent to that country are “premium quality”.
“In fact, the fetch a premium price on the Trinidad and Tobago market and I really want to congratulate the farmers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who are doing an excellent work.”
Caesar also said the price of arrowroot from this country over the last 14 months has increased to US$7 per pound, up from $5 per pound.
He further said that when the Unity Labour Party administration took office in March 2001, the price per pound of arrowroot rhizomes was 21 cents.
“This year, for the first time in the history of this country, a pound of arrowroot rhizome [is] fetching the price of $1 per pound.”
He said that the Ministry of Agriculture has established a task force to deal with marketing of the nation’s produce.
“During the next few months, in the Ministry of Agriculture, you will see a significant repositioning of some of the professionals in the Ministry since we are seeking to reenergise the Ministry and we are reallocating the human resource.
“I just want the farmers to be aware of this, because it will definitely be seeing some drastic changes in the positioning of the HR in the Ministry of Agriculture,” he told Parliament.
Caesar also said that plans are in place to operationalize the agricultural depots in Chateaubelair and Belmont by June.
Several models are being articulated by the Ministry and are supported by farmers, including a lease-hold interest given to entities which are interested.
He further said he has an extensive document produced by the North Leeward Enterprise and Farmers Co-operative.
“It’s very extensive document and the Ministry of Education is currently studying the documents, because it seems to be very much interested in leasing the parcel of land and also the building.”
Caesar also said efforts are being made to have 30 producers cooperative established in 2013
He said rising food import bill is a “chronic issue” throughout the region
“And, from the government’s standpoint, we see the operationalization of these depots as creating an outlet locally, where we can see the purchasing of produce from farmers…” Caesar told Parliament.
(This story was updated to correct an inadvertent misrepresentation of the Minister’s comment.)