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].