by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): How does St. Kitts and Nevis plan to achieve food security?
As part of the stimulus package offered because of the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, EC$15 million was earmarked to boost agriculture and food production.
The Ministry of Agriculture also secured additional lands for farming and there is a temporary waiver on water bills for registered farmers, among other offerings.
“The investment in agriculture has returned dividends during the period Jan – May 2021 the dollar value of crop and livestock production rose by 44 percent from EC$3.6 million in 2020 to 5.2 million in 2021,” reported Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris during his press conference earlier this month (July 2021).
In that address, Dr. Harris reported a 27 percent increase in crop output and a 90 percent increase in livestock over that period.
Ron Dublin-Collins, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, during the July 27 broadcast of Leadership Matters, gave further updates on how the Ministry is supporting local farmers
“Our Boer Goat breeding program [organised] breeding activities to effect genetic improvement within our livestock… Wednesday, [July 28] some 25 Boer goats, female goats, will be made available to livestock farmers in a handing over ceremony [in Parsons]… We have some production initiatives that have been implemented. As of tomorrow [July 28], 1,000 coconut seedlings will be made available to the department of agriculture for their outreach centres and distribution to farmers. A number of citrus plants are being sourced for production including limes, lemon, tangerine, oranges and grapefruits. Fifteen thousand pineapple seedlings are expected shortly and will be distributed to our farmers. Some six acres of papaya seeds will be planted by farmers throughout the three districts in St. Kitts, and this will commence shortly.”
In July 2021, 51 farmers were approved for assistance from the Farmer Assistance Program, including agricultural imports and building materials.
With an increase in produce to be sold, what about facilities necessary to sell these items?
As part of the State of Emergency, vendors were relocated from their roadside/pavement makeshift stalls and personal tents to the Public Market on the Bay Road.
That market is now open from 6 a.m to 6. p.m and stall fees have been waived.
Collins reported ten small stalls within the facility are available for craft vendors, 14 small stalls available with provisions for meat and fish vendors.
Repairs are also expected to begin shortly to bolster the security and infrastructure of the market.
However, the Market may not be enough to facilitate all farmers and sellers of produce, and the ministry has started community-based farmers markets in several communities.
“We have now identified market venues to alleviate some of the congestion at the Market and to provide that ready area for those who live in specific communities. So the Ministry has now established the community farmers market in these areas. These community markets will engage in the sale of fruits and vegetable produce… Pond Road Strip has been identified, Conaree has been identified, Bourryeau and we are working again with sparks in the Sandy Point area to ensure that it provides for vendors in that area,” Dublin-Collins said before noting that the ministry of agriculture will maintain the sites.
He later reported that over 20 vendors have registered for stalls on the Pond Road Strip.