Fri 20th Dec 2013

Farmers have been let down by the ULP regime

The ULP regime has neglected farmers and devastated the agriculture industry in SVG. We often see the minister for agriculture in the media, but what has actually been done to rejuvenate SVG's agriculture industry? Too little!

The Leader of SVG Green Party, Mr Ivan O'Neal, comes from an agricultural background. As a young man, Ivan O'Neal was a farmer in livestock and vegetables, and his parents and grandparents were farmers. Mr Ivan O'Neal is deeply concerned at the downgrading and destruction of the agriculture industry under the ULP regime, often in favour of tourism.

Selling our prime agricultural land, such as at Buccament, to build tourist resorts was very short-sighted of the incompetent ULP regime; so was building a jail on prime agricultural land at Belle Isle. These were acts of madness. We must think about our nation's food security in the long-term or else there will be no land left for agriculture and SVG will become a food aid state.

The ULP's policy of $6 million dollars for a farmers bank in the 2014 budget estimates is a slap in the face to our hard-working farmers, when compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars given to Taiwan and the super-rich of Mustique and Canouan in immoral tax exemptions.

We must get our priorities right. Farmers have contributed significantly to the SVG economy and have provided food security and jobs for our people for decades. However, under the ULP regime agriculture is in ruins. In 2011, SVG imported $207 million dollars of food, yet we have fertile land and capable farmers who can grow the food we import.

We need to create jobs in agriculture in SVG, not abroad, and we can do this by growing what we eat and not importing so much food. Locally, there should be guaranteed markets for farmers for their produce. Bringing back the marketing cooperation and import substitution of food would help achieve this aim and bring prosperity to our farmers.

A Green government will also help farmers set up farming coops. In a food growing coop, with as many producers as possible working together, farmers can more easily diversify into different vegetable crops and gain access to foreign markets by guaranteeing a constant weekly source of product. Farmers would then be better able to obtain large contracts to supply hotels and supermarkets abroad.

A Green government will revive the rural economy. There are hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue that can be harnessed from agriculture. SVG could do organic farming and build factories to process and export tea, baby food, coffee, fruit juices and other agro-products, to the diaspora in Europe, Canada and the USA. These measures will provide thousands of new jobs for our people.

A Green government will create a farmers credit union and offer farmers secured, short-term credit facilities to enable farmers to branch out in to organic short-term crops and organic greenhouse crops. Farmers need financial assistance to buy equipment to diversify their crops and support in rejuvenating their farms.

We thank all our farmers for their critical and sustainable contribution in feeding our people over the years. We are very dismayed that the ULP regime has failed them and let them down.

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