KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, May 22, IWN – There is often a lot of talk locally about the size of the food import bill.
But Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar, also wants some focus on the national food consumption bill.
Caesar, speaking at the Fisherman’s Day Rally at Calliaqua on Monday, lauded “the valiant effort” of the nation’s fisherfolk “who go to sea, day by day, to feed the nation”.
“It is not an easy thing to do. And any discussion of fisheries should be properly posited in a broader discussion of food security,” he said.
“And it is time for us, as a nation, not only to look at the food import bill but to look at what is the national food consumption bill. Because, when we look at the national food consumption bill, we will be able to take our imports and better appreciation [for] the hard work and the toil of our farmers, who go to the field on a daily basis, and of our fishermen who go to the seas on a daily basis to build this blessed country,” Caesar said.
He further said the Fisheries Division will work hard to ensure it meets the requisite standard for the export of seafood to the European Union.
“It is very important as we expand in term of the technology that we … also find the markets internationally and that we can meet the requisite standard for the European market, and that is being worked on, as we speak,” Caesar further said.
This country has not met the standard required to export seafood to the EU for more than a decade.
The minister also spoke of the lionfish, a venomous, voracious, invasive species that is a threat to local fish stocks.
He said he ate lionfish for the first time earlier that day.
“And I enjoyed the lionfish. And I must say, even though it is a threat, in many islands in the Caribbean, we are making a significant opportunity out of this threat.”
Caesar also encouraged fishers’ cooperatives to work hard as the nation continues to build capacity, adding that is it hard for individual fisherfolk to do it on their own and that the Food and Agricultural Organisation last year recognised the importance of cooperatives.
“And I know, over the years, there has been a high level of distrust in cooperatives. And I see some of the fishermen here giving me a nod of approval. But I want to say to you this evening that, as we go forward, the cooperatives must continue to play a very integral role.”
Caesar noted that the Government established a $6 million credit facility a few years ago.
“It was, however, under utilised. And that is very instructive. The time has come for us now to not only look inwards but we have to look to attract many foreign direct investors into our country to assist us to develop our fisheries sub-sector,” he said.
Caesar added that over the last 12 years, the Government has done much work in developing the fisheries infrastructure.
He further announced that an investor from Denmark is interested in coming to invest in the fisheries subsector.
We as citizens are obligated to ensure our food security, which goes beyound just food importation. The question is how best can we utilized all our resources so as to ensure that the great majority of what is consumed in the country are produce locally. Are we fully utilizing our human and other resources so as to ensure maximum productivity in SVG? LET’S WORK TOWARDS THE ENHANCEMENT OF OUR FOOD SECURITY.
Let me take a sentence or quote from the minister of agriculture that caught my attention. He said, “But I want to say to you this evening that, as we go forward, the cooperatives must continue to play a very integral role.
That’s fine, but what happen to the one in Fancy? Was any lesson learned from that venture? How is he going to address the issues that made it a failure? Talk is cheap, but action speaks louder than words.
Then will he apply the same coop idea to agriculture, because farmers need to unite to combat the theft of their animals and products. Many have abandon the farms because the sow the seeds, but someone else reaps the harvest. There are several ways to ensure only products from legitimate farmers are sold anywhere in SVG. I hope the minister of agriculture and the minister of security, will work hand in hand to address this issue. The minister must also visit the various villages and towns to speak to farmers. Let the farmers know that he is behind them and will support them in the quest to sell their products.
And speaking about foodstuff: I was told that SVG now imports foodstuff from islands it once shipped these items to. So, I hope the minister will work closely with farmers to start putting SVG back where it once belonged – the bread basket for several other islands. Some years ago Jamaicans and other islanders living in Canada, were eager to see products from SVG. The taste and quality were the best.
The cost of food imports are seriously affected by Ralph Gonsalves who eats as much imported food as a small village, so much so, may I therefore suggest that he is declared a village.
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