by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) aims to reduce the US$5 billion regional food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025 to inch one step closer to sustainability.
St. Kitts and Nevis are included in that goal of reducing the food import bill, which would mean that significant investment in homegrown produce, by-products, and meat kind is necessary to achieve that goal with just under two years to go before the goal.
During the May 10 edition of Farm Report on WINN’s Island Tea, Troy Flanders of the St. Kitts Farmers Cooperative Society says that while the farmers could provide certain produce to the supermarkets, there is a lack of buy-in from the more prominent grocers in the Federation.
“We would produce, but yet we cannot get out stuff sell to these major supermarkets in the numbers that we want. We could produce, but for some reason, major supermarkets would just take a small amount from us just to say they are taking something from us, but then they are doing the bulk of the importation… when they take 100lds of carrots from one farmer, they might not take from another farmer but yet the pontoon coming in with thousands of pounds of carrots. So we find the farmers are now stuck with all the carrots that he [has].”
Flanders recalled an agreement once in a place where if there were a surplus on the island of a good, there would be a halt on importing that particular produce, but that has not been in practice for some time.
“There was a point in time [where] when we [had] things in abandon they don’t import – they had like a ban on it – but it’s not happening So you find the farmers right now for the past five-six years there’s been a downward slide for the farming community. Most farmers today, farmers who I look up to before I [got] serious [in] the industry, who were striving, they are struggling now.”
The Farmers Cooperative calls on the Ministry of Trade to pay some attention to the farmers and how local businesses treat them.
“If we take a look at the budget in Agriculture for this year, you will see the resources that they put towards agriculture… I think it was 25[million], but when you break it down, it would be maybe next to nothing – a couple million – maybe two/three million going directly into the sector. So when you look at it the government will have to want best for their people. I ain’t see no reason why the Ministry of Trade and them cannot get together and decide, “Boy no, these farmers getting knock bout” and stop the slaughtering of the farming ”
Local Farmer, Solomon Morton, called into WINN and supported Flanders’ call for the Trade Ministry to place some resources in the farming industry.
“One of the major problems we’re facing is that the Ministry of Trade is not doing what it ought to do to protect the market… One of the guys mentioned Donald Trump, and he used the very laws that we are abiding by to secure a certain percentage of the market for their people, which the laws allow… and we’re not doing that so it is a free-for-all where any and anybody could come; and any and anybody could order; and any and anybody could sell… the Ministry of Trade needs to be supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in the marketing share in order to mover agriculture. It makes no sense we produce and we don’t have a market… so at the end of the day, the farmer is always getting burned… that is why farmers are in poverty up until today, and until they do something about that, nothing is going to change.”
During the conversation on Island Tea, Flanders urged citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis to buy local.
See the entire conversation with Troy Flanders here: