Argyle International Airport. (iWN file photo)

By Things As I See Them

The opening of the Argyle International Airport (AIA) on mainland St Vincent has optimised the hope of many Vincentians of the role of this piece of infrastructure in our economic development. It brings fresh hope to our tourism and rekindles old ones for our agriculture industry.

Whether or not such hope will materialise is left to be seen. We, however, need to keep the vision alive and plan for its reality. In so doing, I’m almost certain that we will be seeking new markets for root crops and vegetables. If we are successful in establishing and securing new markets for these two types of produce, we could be certain that their production would increase. Increased production could be to our benefit but does not guarantee such in marketing terms, as the flip side of this could mean lower prices for such produce. Despite such, we must remain positive.

The issue of quality of produce might not be generic, neither could we say it is unique to our situation, but there are speculations that due to the quality and or quantity of fertilisers and, maybe, the use of other chemicals, the quality of the produce is significantly compromised, giving them a very short shelf life. It is common knowledge, backed by research, that incorrect application of fertilisers could and would negatively affect crops. However, if this has any scientific bearing to our situation, then we would need to correct it pronto, and not wait until our buyers complain. To wait until such would be detrimental to our already fragile industry. I have no doubt that we have or could source the means and resources to deal with any such problems in a professional and scientific way. Quality should be our watchword and every effort should be made to achieve top quality produce. Our location and levels of production have already disadvantaged us as a global competitor in agriculture as it relates to transportation cost, which, in turn, affects or dictates the overall cost of the produce.

Another possible issue that could work against us is the handling and packaging of our produce from the fields. It is one thing to produce top quality produce and another to have the quality deteriorate significantly by the time they are ready for exporting due to poor forms of transportation, handling and packaging. The government will have to improve feeder roads and provide the farmers with appropriate and quality packaging containers. Due to the rugged terrain of St Vincent many farmers have no choice but to still utilise traditional forms of transportation namely donkey and toting on head to transport their produce. These are used over significant distances before the produce could be transported by vehicles. These issues must be addressed in order to guarantee the survival of the industry in a very competitive market space, should it become viable. To abandon the farmers and simply reject their produce as being unfit for the regional or international market would cast doubt on the Ministry of Agriculture. Hence, with the appropriate training in the application of fertilisers and related chemicals and proper packaging containers, we would achieve better produce and minimise the damage to them sustained during and after harvesting. Establishing standards would be another inevitability but the farmers must be supported if they are to meet these standards. The cart must always go before the horse.

On the contrary, we must not channel all our energies believing that AIA is our only way of getting produce and products out of St Vincent. A booming agriculture industry could and should open up other avenues for other industries such as agro-processing, which we must capitalise on. Products from these could be shipped by sea at more competitive cost. Again we could be the supplier of related raw materials such as mango juice or pulp. Let us turn our hope and optimism into action because to have the potential and never use it is worse than doing nothing because we lack the potential. Let us not be hasty and create foes by way of AIA but instead create friends and trading partners that would last for many generations to come.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

3 replies on “Agriculture and AIA”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    The root crops and vegetables you refer to are shipped by boat, train, or truck all over the world to and from countries with international airports.

    The root crops and vegetables we import from other countries that we have been importing in increasing numbers arrive here in refrigerated shipboard containers.

    The root crops and other produce we send to other Caribbean countries are transported by boat.

    These are the cheapest ways to transport such produce.

    AIA will never send such produce overseas.

    1. Unfortunately you are right again. If it were cost efficient to ship such agricultural products by air, the USA would have Guava, Breadfruit and other products for sale in the supermarkets.

  2. KaribbeanKat says:

    There are many fruits and vegetables arriving by air in Canada every day. They are all high priced commodities that we cannot grow in Canada. Low priced vegetables come in shipping containers and by freight train.

    The US is different there is nothing that cannot be grown there in some region of the USA. They also buy a lot of produce from Mexico. It’s shipped by road and rail all over the States.

    Root vegetables are so low priced that it simply does not pay to ship them by air. So when the foolish talk of shipping by air from Saint Vincent begins it’s simply a ploy to fool the people into believing that Argyle Airport will give some economical boost to the farmers.

    Very simply put it will not and cannot be relied on as any kind of boost to Vincentian agriculture.

    During the winter I spend some time in Florida and can tell you there is nothing produced in SVG that cannot be found already in supermarkets there which is US grown. The main difference is the quality and presentation, packing, grading and low price compared to Kingstown market.

    Sending produce to the US is like trying to sell snow to the Eskimo’s or sand to the Arabs. Simply sheer foolishness.

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