The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) says it will be tough on the theft of agricultural produce, which is having a dampening effect on farming in the country.
“… I want to be crystal clear on this point. Too many farmers in my constituency are crying day after day after day,” Israel Bruce, the NDP’s candidate for South Central Windward told a virtual campaign rally last Thursday.
“Too many persons are waiting until my hardworking farmers go and produce and up to the point of reaping time you go and you meet the dasheen stalk on the ground.
“Some of them are so brazen that they clean the dasheen right in your plantation, leave the stalk there for you and gone with the dasheen,” said Bruce, a first time candidate.
He said that one elderly woman had nine heads of livestock and thieves took eight.
“This New Democratic Party will ensure that we tighten the law to protect the farmers of this country and the constituency of South Central Windward,” said Bruce is pit against Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar, who is seeking a third five-year term in office.
“We will not allow for thieves to destroy the productive psyche of farmers and this country. Your production means a lot to a New Democratic Party government. Your production means that you’d help us in our goal to reduce importation and to improve and expand on exportation and give us hard earned currency to produce the goods and series for the people of this country,” Bruce said.
NDP committed to reviving bananas
He said that his party remain committed to reviving the banana industry, adding that before coming to office in March 2001, the Unity Labour Party “went across the country and they said they were going to bring salvation back to the banana industry”.
Bruce said the ULP had a Banana Salvation Committee, headed by Cecil Ryan.
“Twenty years later, we have nit seen the sal nor the vation,” Bruce said.
He said that the NDP, recognising the importance of agriculture to the national economy, said in 2015 that if voted into office it would rehabilitate 1,000 acres of banana cultivation.
The party said the farmers would be given income support while waiting to reap their crop.
“The Unity Labour Party jump up like red ants bite them … and they say, ‘We will do 2,000 acres.’
“Three years into their term of office, you asked the Minister of Agriculture how many acres have gone into banana because you said you would do 2,000 acres in the first year.
“He said, ‘No, no, we didn’t say that. We said 2,000 acres over the entire five-year period.’ But, up to the third year, they had less than 29 acres of bananas back under cultivation.”
He said that at the same time St. Lucia is selling bananas to the United Kingdom and Martinique
“Flip that coin. The hard working farmers of Lauders and Lowmans and New Adelphi what do they have to do? Put wooden stick to their sides and come to Kingstown to macco people’s buildings. That is what this government reduce hard working farmers in this country to. Glorified watchmen, I am advised.”
Bruce said this is because the government subscribes to a political philosophy that if they keep people poor and ignorant they will manage them better.
“But I say to the farmers of South Central, hope is here. The New Democratic Party with the farmers of this country at heart is here for you.”
He said that agricultural feeder roads will be constructed, including in his constituency.
“I hear your cry that you need proper markets for you produce and as you do so, you will employ more and more person in your farms.
Diplomats must help secure market
He also said that professional in Vincentian missions overseas must be willing to work to help secure market for the nation’s agricultural produce.
“I say to the professionals in the offices and consulates abroad, and I say to those who may be appointed, do not get excited about the job if you are not prepared to go out there and work with trade missions to help to find markets for our farmers.
“So when you hear Israel Bruce coming to New York for a meeting, those of you in the consulates, don’t rest happy because by the time I land in the USA, you must have several meetings set up for me to discuss marketing possibilities for the farmers in my country. It will not be a place where you do and enjoy the luxuries of New York or Manhattan or London. This party is about hard and serious work, this party is about providing for the people of this country.”
Bruce said that once the country finds market for farmers, they will be providing jobs for young people”
He urged students with interest in trade and trade negotiations, unfair competition and related subject to forge ahead because “this New Democratic Party will help you.
“This New Democratic Party will help you to further your qualification and have meaningful, careers in agriculture and trade.”