The Ralph Gonsalves government will give to Barbados some of the 500,000 pounds of arrowroot starch that it will purchase from local farmers for EC$1.5 million amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some persons may ask why you’re purchasing starch. Well, it is an issue of food security,” Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar told Parliament on Tuesday.
“And we are in contact with the government of Barbados, where we also will be showing that sharing is caring.
“We will be assisting the government and people of Barbados with our starch,” Caesar said.
He added that the government will provide an EC$1.5 million subvention to the SVG Arrowroot Industry Association.
“Additionally, when I look at the substantive budget, adding in now the supplementary estimates, we came to this parliament and we have already agreed to assist the arrowroot industry with $1.5 million as a grant from the Government of India and $1.24 million to assist in reparatory works which are outstanding,” Caesar said.
In delivering the EC$74 million supplementary estimates, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves said that the 500,000 pounds of starch will be brought from “our existing stockpiles for distribution in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to pre-schools, to early childhood establishments, to citizens as an important starch that we can use for food security in this particular time”.
Further, on March 14, in his first major national remarks about his government’s response to COVID-19, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that there was 700,000 pounds of arrowroot starch for which SVG was trying to find a market in the region.
“… [I] don’t mind selling them at a reduced price to our friends in the Caribbean,” Gonsalves said.
iWitness News understands that there were problems in the arrowroot industry even before the COVID-19 pandemic took root in SVG.
Farmers had long been told not to harvest their crops and there were fears that this year’s crop could have been lost as a result.
On Saturday, one farmer in Owia told iWitness News that no processing of arrowroot rhizome has taken place at the factory for weeks and the crop is rotting on the ground.
Further, there had not been any payments to farmers or workers for months, the stakeholder said.