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A section of the greenhouse park in Montreal, Marriaqua. (Photo; Facebook/NDP)
A section of the greenhouse park in Montreal, Marriaqua. (Photo; Facebook/NDP)
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Farmers should not trust the government to repair the 1.4 million euros greenhouse park in Montreal which has fallen into disrepair since opening in June 2018, says opposition Leader Godwin Friday.

Friday said on radio recently that he had visited the park and there was no one working there and the gates were padlocked.

“The grass was just freshly cut because Bernard [Wyllie] went and talked about it to say, well how come they have so much grass growing in the yard?” he said, referring to the opposition New Democratic Party’s caretaker for Marriaqua, where the green house park is located.

“The facility itself looks like it’s abandoned. The covering is ripped up,” Friday said.

“This is supposed to be the cutting edge of our, our agriculture. This is supposed to be a demonstration as to how agriculture can be more productive, meaning that you produce more and better, so more cost effective so you make more money out of it.

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“This is what it’s supposed to do. And it has failed. The so-called Montreal greenhouse Park is a failed ULP (Unity Labour Party) project.”

He was speaking on Feb. 26, four days after Agriculture Minister, Saboto Caesar responded in Parliament to a question that Friday tabled about the greenhouses.

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Opposition Leader Godwin Friday in a Sept. 25, 2023 photo.

Friday asked how the building of the greenhouses was financed; the objective of the greenhouse project; what was being grown or produced at the greenhouses now; and whether more greenhouses will be built by the government.

Caesar said 16 greenhouses are located at the facility and their construction were financed by the European Union under the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) project, under which SVG received 9.9 million euros (EC$30 million).

He told Parliament that the project opened on June 25, 2018, and was geared at reducing the imports of vegetables, increasing the production of seedlings and addressing food security “to ensure that vegetables are available, affordable and accessible”.

He said that after the park was opened, it was leased to “one of the largest greenhouse operators, not only in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but in the OECS…

“But when we started to experience the volcanic eruptions, the ministry took the decision that since Montreal was in the green zone, that … we will move the tissue culture lab from Orange Hill — all of the equipment that are in Orange Hill — and we will take them to Montreal,” Caesar said, referring to the April 2021 eruptions.

He said the government, therefore, asked the private operator to vacate the facility.

“… we’re still in discussions with him with certain matters of compensation,” Caesar said.

He said that after the private operator vacated, the ministry started operations there. “And we did for several months. …

“So, for persons who are listening, the Montreal greenhouse Park, it was damaged by the volcanic eruptions.”

The minister said the United States Agency for International Development would be providing on a consultancy basis the scope of works to repair the greenhouse park and has hired people to address the issue or repairs.

“More greenhouses will be built; … 35 will be built under the $27 million World Bank Food Security Project,” he said, adding that the government is looking to place them at central locations.

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Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar in an Jan. 9, 2024 photo.

He said the government has allocated US$711,000 to building the greenhouses “and we are looking at young persons in the different communities, who after they are built, that we can transfer it to them.”

Caesar said the greenhouses will have security features.

“We are working with the Ministry of Agriculture, working closely with the Government of South Korea to address the issue of praedial larceny, and how we can use modern technology to address praedial larceny,” he said. 

However, the opposition leader, in his comments on NICE Radio, said that Caesar had “the nerve” to say the government was going to build more greenhouses.

“Who would have confidence in the minister and in this government to say that if they get money from the World Bank … to do greenhouses they will do it better than they did at Montreal?” Friday said.

He said the government’s plans for the money given under the BAM project has changed several times.

“But all of these things were a part of the project … and you go to Montreal, which is supposed to be the leading edge, the demonstration effects that this is how we can do farming in the future. And it’s a complete failure,” Friday said.

“How can you convince people that if, as he says, the World Bank is going to give more money to the government to essentially expand and to build upon this project?

“What is there to build on? The only way that that is going to work is if you have a change of government, where we would apply those funds in the way intended and seriously seek to find alternatives to what we have there now in terms of the failed project at Montreal and the difficulties that farmers all over the country are having.”