The harvesting of arrowroot rhizomes in North Windward in March 2018. (iWN photo)

The government must make up its mind about the arrowroot industry, an opposition lawmaker has said.

“Mr. Speaker, let us make up our minds whether we want the arrowroot industry or not. It’s not an orphan. Don’t treat it like an afterthought,” Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock told Parliament last week.

He said that the government must decide where it wants the arrowroot industry to be in the mainstream of the country’s productive sector and budget properly for it. 

“Don’t have the farmers in this back-bending activity year after year to have to go on three and four months of stress not knowing if and when they would get paid and suddenly coming come like a knight in shining armour on some white horse and say, ‘You see me? I deliver. You see me, massa, pay yo’,” Leacock told the debate in which parliament approved EC$123 million in special warrant spending over the period 2014 to 2018.

“Take people out of that bondage. It is an important industry. This is an industry that at one time bought a warplane for Britain. That’s how strong the industry was at one time. We bought a plane to fight in the World War II from our arrowroot proceeds,” Leacock said.

“Now arrowroot is relegated to an afterthought, the journalising of funds spoken of, I understand that. But let’s be clear, the funds that were journalised in the special warrants didn’t come like manna from the sky. They had come to our attention in the budget of that year. But only come into fruition at that particular time.”

But Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, responding to Leacock, pointed out that the government has secured US$1 million for a new arrowroot factory.

He said Leacock had spoken as if the funds spent on the industry “was not indication of the seriousness with which we treat arrowroot and the esteemed place of the arrowroot farmer in the minds and heart of this government and the people of  St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.

Gonsalves reminded Leacock that this year’s budget contained US$1 million that Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar negotiated from India to build an arrowroot factory in North Windward.

“And he would be pleased to know, I am sure, that next month, in November, us having received the concept designs and the initial designs, the consultants are going to be on-site her in St. Vincent in November to do the detailed designs.  A process anticipated to take three months and construction on the brand new US$1 million arrowroot facility commences in the first quarter of 2020. And that is not something that you do if you want to treat arrowroot like an orphan.”

There is a decades-old arrowroot factory in Owia, which, at times, is plagued by breakdown, which resulted in a crop rotting in 2017.

Further, at times, farmers have to wait for months before being paid for their crops. 

4 replies on “Arrowroot industry ‘not an orphan’”

  1. I remember when a really nice little factory and packing station for coconut water production was built on privately owned land paid for by someone, some country or whatever. Laid empty and unused for years, what of it now, I am not sure.

    Built on land owned by MountainTop water, close to its bottling plant. Said to be the revival of the coconut industry.

    Will this revival of the arrowroot industry processing plant go the same way? Is it being built on a private persons land, will it be possible for the industry to start seeing as all the previous effort appears to see the industry dead and buried?

    The problem is that the ULP simply cannot be trusted with agriculture, they have destroyed every facet of it so far.

    1. With thier form of Socialist Government the ULP could not and will not manage anything that does not directly make them look good in order to get votes. A good example is the condition of our schools and most government buildings and all secondary roads. REAL MANAGEMENT does not exist for the ULP except directly and on a small scale. They have no understanding whatsoever on how to manage a government! That is the curse of Socialist Governments worldwide and why all people suffer under socialism. Strangely in Saint Vincent we have much of the Socialist System but without the benefits of Socialism.
      Think about this:
      Saint Vincent has a Socialist Government with high socialist taxes but the people have less benefits than the most Capitalist of societies! A 20-year Labour Party is in charge of more unemployment than in the nation’s entire history!
      The LABOUR party provides NO jobs! The UNITY party works at dividing the country. Maybe they should change the name to:
      DUP
      Division Unemployment Party

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