St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): It’s a regional malaise – the high food import bill that agriculture is yet to make a serious dent in.
That assessment, from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture in Nevis, Eric Evelyn.
He was responding to a question about how much of an impact agriculture is having on the federation’s food import bill.
“Of course I think it is a problem region wide, where most of our food that we consume is being brought from overseas. It is a very sad situation because I think here in the region the opportunity is there for us to produce a lot more of what we eat. When we talk about the land resource in places like Guyana, Suriname and so on, I mean there are vast lands available for agriculture production. We have the human capital as well and I still believe that there is a lot more that can be done.”
Permanent Secretary Evelyn says efforts are being made at the Nevis level to produce more agricultural produce for local consumption.
“A lot of what we consume still comes from overseas but over the years we are seeing a dent where that is concerned because every year there are certain crops that we are self sufficient in for a number of months, tomatoes in particular, we’ve done exceptionally well in tomatoes over the past years and I think only last year there was several months when there was absolutely no tomatoes being imported into the island. We are continuing to place emphasis on onion production as well there were several months when no onions have to be imported except for the jumbos, the pearl onions and the red onion. We have seen incremental increases in watermelon we been doing very well in watermelon production, sweet pepper production and lettuce and I think the import substitution continues to increase where a number of crops are concerned.”
The government official says while very good strides have been made in import substitution and reduction of the food import bill, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Eric Evelyn was a guest on WINN FM’s Saturday (May 6) programme Inside The News.
Another panelist, Dr Clare Bowen-O’Connor, who is involved in research work, emphasized the importance of agro-processing to the agricultural sector.
Dr Bowen-O’Connor is the Programme Coordinator, Senior Lecturer and head of the Agricultural Studies Programme at the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College.
“When we look at agricultural development we need to know how we are going to sell our products, we need to know how we are going to meet our customers needs to the best of our ability as producers and we need to understand what it is we really want to sell. Are we going to go out there and be selling the same thing that everyone else is selling or are we going to come up with a unique proposition that will allow us to present maybe the same products but in a new way to ensure that consumers get the best quality and the best product available. In keeping with what Mr. Evelyn also said agro-processing is really very important and in this agro business programme one of the things that came out is that the agro-processors really need a market.”
The CFBC is said to be playing an active role in facilitating food security in St Kitts and Nevis through its agriculture business programme.