The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the closure of borders and institutions around the world. However, it seems to be creating the opposite effect on the Agriculture and Fisheries Sectors in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Over the last two (2) weeks, the island witnessed the opening of four (4) State owned facilities for the purchasing of food from farmers. These buying depots are at Langley Park, Lauders, La Croix, and Rose Bank. Before end of month, another facility will be opened to serve the farmers in the Vermont Agriculture District and the immediate environs.
The Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Saboto Caesar, in a recent Face to Face programme on NBC radio outlined the following as activities expected to take place at the buying depots:
1. Farmers will provide produce for sale to the State to be packaged and distributed on the national fresh produce programme dubbed the “Love Box” initiative;
2. Individual farmers and producer groups will be able to come to the buying centres to both retail and wholesale produce daily;
3. Agro-processors will have the opportunity to exhibit their products as part of the current National Buy Local Campaign;
4. There will be the presence of a Farmer’s Support Company desk to provide guidance to applicants seeking assistance from the “Stimulus Package”- in the areas of livestock, fisheries, tractor services, inputs, and credit; and
5. A representative from the Ministry of Agriculture to address the important linkage between production, marketing, and extension services.
According to the Minister, “The vision is that with the increase in production and productivity expected as a significant return from the “Stimulus Package”, these markets will be able to assist in improving affordability and accessibility to local agriculture commodities; and to act as packaging facilities also for export. These centres will play a central role in the Production Revolution in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines during the decade 2020-2030 and beyond.”
He concluded that the term “Love Box” is now a national brand, with exporters already considering the potential of marketing food outside of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in similar boxes, neatly packed.
He also thanked Miss Derona Burke, who is charged with the responsibility to make operational these centres, the entire support staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Medicinal Cannabis Authority.
The farming community has expressed satisfaction with the process thus far.
The Ministry of Agriculture commends the efforts of all stakeholders supporting the trade of locally produced agriculture goods.