by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is cementing its commitment to reducing the country’s food import bill, with the 25 by 2025 Agenda Launch on Thursday, July 27, 2023, at the Agriculture Conference Room at 10:00 a.m.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Marine Resources and Cooperatives said the launch would feature a comprehensive food self-sufficiency and sustainability plan in St. Kitts and Nevis and outline the targets set to significantly contribute to the local and regional food import bills.
The food import bill for St. Kitts and Nevis is around 200 million dollars, contributing to the region’s existing US $6 billion dollars food import bill. Recently, there have been numerous pronouncements in the Federation about the urgent need to transform the country’s agricultural sector. The steps to be taken, as many have suggested, are the exporting of quality agricultural produce, reducing importation, boosting agro-processing and the consumption of local produce. Many are optimistic that once the agricultural industry is transformed, the food import bill will be reduced, the cost of food will lower, the economy will be rebuilt, trade relations will be created, and there will be better nutrition and livelihoods for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture et al., Mr Miguel Flemming, during a recent CARICOM discussion on the 25 by 2025 Agenda, shared some of the programmes that exist in St. Kitts and Nevis in support of the reduction of the food import bill and to increase agricultural production.
Fleming stated, “Some of the things that we are doing, we have this concept that we call greenhouse village initiative, where we construct a number of greenhouses in different parts of the island, and we basically control what farmers can grow in those greenhouses; because what we have recognised is that even though there’s a need for an approach in order to target the market and to supply the supermarkets and restaurants and hotels consistently, persons still try to deviate. So we believe that heading in that direction is actually a good way to go, by developing our greenhouse villages so we can do some protected Agriculture.
We’re also in the process of procuring additional machinery to mechanise some forms of production and to also be able to prepare our lands in a timely manner so that farmers can really target the rainy season. We are also installing ice machines around St.Kitts and Nevis so fishers can have access because our approach is not just crop and livestock production, but we also look at the fisheries sector as well.”
Fleming added, “We’re also in the process of expanding our storage capacity because what we have recognised is that some crops are ethylene sensitive, and other crops might cause other produce to spoil because they might be sensitive to that ethylene. We’re expanding our storage capacity so that we can be able to supply the supermarkets consistently because while we want to increase production, we must be able to have the facility to store the produce.”
In addition, St. Kitts and Nevis, like other Caribbean islands, are experiencing significant drought, so the Ministry and Department of Agriculture are working with other Ministries and stakeholders to improve the potable water system; water being a prime resource in ensuring food security.
Other initiatives include training so that individuals can learn how to produce goods under protected structures and feral control programmes, whereby wild pigs, monkeys and donkeys are dealt with humanely, despite many complaints by farmers that those pests are wreaking havoc on their farms.