Food Market Stabilisation Fund, Agriculture Technology Enhancement Project and Buy Local
(By Ernesto Cooke) – In 2021, the Ministry of Agriculture is introducing an important programme that seeks to build on the lessons learned from the successful “Love Box” initiative and prepare for the presence of over 1,000 new hotel rooms on mainland Saint Vincent.
The programme dubbed the “Food Market Stabilisation Fund,” will assist groups of farmers and cooperatives in finding appropriate markets and prices for their produce.
The Food Market Stabilisation Fund will help to pool products from farmers and negotiate collective supply agreements and prices with purchasers. Such a mechanism is critical in ensuring that Vincentian small farmers have an opportunity to offer reliable supplies of their products to rapidly growing markets.
The Fund will be developed through the Farmer’s Support Company, which already has the mandate to assist farmers and fishers in the growth of their businesses.
The PRYME programme will also continue offering specific support to young entrepreneurs pursuing farming and agro-processing.
Another project critical to the modernisation of the agricultural sector is the Agriculture Technology Enhancement Project. The diversification of our agricultural sector has exacerbated the challenges in compiling accurate statistics on agricultural production.
The Ministry of Agriculture, like many other productive ministries, is bedevilled by inaccurate, incomplete and inconsistent data gathering.
These gaps in our data gathering, affect not only the accuracy of our GDP projections but also the policy responses to various challenges and opportunities.
As part of a wider reform of our capabilities to gather and analyse statistics, the Government is procuring drones and computers to modernise the way in which we measure agricultural production.
A crucial call to arms will also be made to the Vincentian public: buy local. A reasonable debate can be had about the efficacy of food self-sufficiency and “eat what you grow/grow what you eat” sloganeering in a globalised world.
Export to regional markets and beyond is the cornerstone of the gov’t vision for agriculture. However, in a period of lockdowns, travel restrictions and broken supply chains, it is in the interest of farmers, our economy and our own self-interest to expand the local market for Vincentian produce.