The relocation of farms in Richmond as a result of the quarry being set up there can lead to increased agricultural production, says Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar.
“The lands for the quarry, a significant percentage of these lands were very hilly and marginal lands in the first place for agriculture,” Caesar told Parliament on Thursday.
“So, the drafter of the question was of the view that if the farmers are removed, that there will be a reduction in production,” he further said, responding to a question from opposition senator, Israel Bruce.
“In fact, you can witness an increase in production because the lands that they were farming, if the lands are really good — you can’t have lands excellent for quarry and excellent for agriculture,” Caesar said.
The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has granted a licence to a quarry company originating in St. Lucia to mine stones in Richmond.
“This has caused a great deal of concern by residents and citizens alike,” Bruce said in the question, which was read on his behalf by Opposition Leader Godwin Friday.
Bruce asked the minister about the total size of agricultural lands that will become unavailable to farmers in that area due to the granting of the license for quarry operations.
He also wanted to know how many farmers would be directly affected.
The senator asked Caesar to say to what extent has this loss of agricultural lands affected the contribution of the agricultural sector to the economic outlook of the farmers of the area and that of the country over the entire period of the lease agreement.
He further asked whether the minister had made arrangements for alternative plots of lands to these farmers and incentives “to compensate for all or any loss as a consequence of this adjustment, not on a one-shot basis but over the period of this lease”.
Caesar said that the whole lease is 58.8 acres.
“And I’m advised by the technicians in the Ministry of Agriculture and those in Lands and Surveys, that between 40 to 45% of the land is under cultivation. Therefore, it’s about 25 acres that will be impacted.”
He said that there were 20 farmers on the land “and every farmer, … the crops were valued by the Ministry of Agriculture, with the assistance of the medicinal cannabis authority, because some of the lots had farmers with cannabis.
“And this government will continue to support every single farmer, all of the 20 farmers, and interestingly, owing to the fact that the cultivation will be transferred to other lots, most of which are to more favorable lands, you can witness, actually, an increase in production or not a decrease,” Caesar said.
He said that an assessment valued the crops on the land at EC$261,000.
“A document will be prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture for the swift payment of these farmers…
“.. we are actively working to address the issue of finding the alternative locations and I am aware, it is public knowledge, that several land owners have been contacted and the issue of alternative state lands, that issue has arisen,” Caesar said.