Tag Archives: Agriculture

How to revitalize Caribbean economies.

Above the logo of the Soualiga Youth Foundation. Profiled on this BLOG in the HOME section.

ST PETERS Sint Maarten: Since 2000 the Foundation Soualiga Youth wrote a detailed report which was presented to then Minister of Education Sarah Wescott Williams. In said report the Foundation outlined a comprehensive plan of action pertinent to Economic revitalization of the Caribbean economies, using Agriculture and Eco-Cultural Tourism as an alternative to the present hedonistic people destructive trend in tourism.The plan was never taken seriously and experts worldwide are predicting the imminent collapse of the Tourism sector as a viable economic pillar regionally. This article is a mirror of what the Soualiga Youth presented to the government of Sint Maarten.

Nov 21, 2012 (Menafn – Caribbean News Now – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) –There is indeed a continuing conversation in many global quarters pertaining to the type of prescription necessary for the revival of the Caribbean economies. In Washington, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter American Development Bank (IADB) are lamenting about the evolving middle class in Latin America and the Caribbean.

While they have exercised much care and caution about defining the specific nations where the middle class is emerging, we must not lose sight of the fact that these two powerful agencies have not substantially addressed the growing poverty issues and decrease in quality of life among certain sectors of the region’s population. In addition, there have been no indicators from these two agencies as to how an emerging middle class will contribute to the control of poverty; improve youth employment and improve the quality of life for the disadvantaged in a sustained manner.

To the great disappointment of many other global observers, the Washington and Geneva multilateralists are aggressively pursuing their selfish development agenda through the deployment of financial resources and development of phony collaborative partnerships with their regional counterparts.
These agencies and their collaborators are yet to come forward with any viable and achievable suggestions regarding the revitalization of our economies; managing our foreign policy reserves by decreasing imports and most important development strategies for a sustainable path that would alleviate the region’s social and economic ills.
Addressing youth unemployment; rural development; access to information technology tools and ensuring there are initiatives that will bring tangible benefits to the disadvantaged are innovations and expectations that should become, key development and policy planks in the region.

As efforts and suggestions are developed for advancing and sustaining the Caribbean economies, there are at least three sectors that require immediate attention and hopefully will result in some improvements. However, it must be noted and recognized that successful and sustainable outcomes will only be derived from a genuine change of attitude, recognition of the need for broad based planning, participation and an acceptance that the global community is changing and Caribbean governments and institutions are obligated to fall in line with these global changes.
Agriculture has long been recognized as the central mainstay of Caribbean economies. Unfortunately, this economy has disappeared and there has been no coordinated or demonstrated effort to revive and sustain it. Short term tourist dollars seem to be the priority. Accumulation of foreign currency in any Caribbean nation should not be dependent only upon tourism.

Many of our small farmers have been abandoned as weak kneed regional policy experts associated with various governments have embarked upon a wild and ill fated chase for tourism dollars, which is unlikely to increase.
While the chase of tourism dollars might be justified by the weak knee policy experts, evidence clearly indicate that Caribbean economies should not rely only on a tourism sector, given global economic uncertainties in Europe and North America. Tourism should not be embraced as the saviour of Caribbean economies. Agriculture should be the priority.

In reviving and sustaining this important industry, there are several factors that require a radical change in thinking and perception about production and market penetration. The application of new information technology tools, identifying and building new partnerships, creation, and sustenance of a strong national marketing board that will assist agricultural stakeholders in exporting and selling their products.

The days of the Geest Line, Harrison Shipping, Atlantic Lines, the Saguenay and Canada Steamship Lines are remembered by many for transporting our agricultural products in better times. Unfortunately, maintenance and sustainability of these exports are disappearing and very little efforts are being advanced for production and export reliability of these products. Like the tourism industry, they are foreign currency income earners and this is why the rationale and need for the agricultural economy is vital to our future.

The tourism industry is an important sector for the region. While the importance of this industry is recognized and encouraged, like the agricultural industry, it also requires radical changes and understanding. The Caribbean tourism industry is very competitive and exceeds the old antique marketing strategy of white sand beaches, bikini clad women with tantalizing physique and beautiful white teeth.

Potential vacationers are looking at affordability, safety, quick, accessible transportation and potential venues or attractions that jug their interests. These expectations require many changes in the management of this industry. Pricing, target marketing, and promotion are very essential if Caribbean nations are interested in holding their niche.

Tourism income earnings are fine and must always be encouraged. However, consideration must be given to a more intricate and sustainable link with our agricultural industry. Tourist vacationers must be encouraged to consume more local foods and other consumption goods associated with the tourist industry. 

The preservation of the local arts and craft industry is of critical importance. This would require effective monitoring and maintenance of existing legislation that addresses trade preference and import of these products. Irrespective of the World Trade Organization (WTO) hype, our local arts and crafts industries should always be protected.

As I examine the plight and future of the region’s disadvantaged, it is crystal clear that unemployment, sexual exploitation, youth delinquency, crime, and lawlessness will continue to confront Caribbean governments. At the same time, many regional individuals have embarked upon further education only to discover after graduation that there are no immediate employment opportunities at home.
Therefore, Caribbean governments need to broaden their perception about another potential foreign income source. Given the decline of the tourism industry, the collapse of the agricultural industry and limited export products, the denial must end and our leaders need to get down to work to address local economic conditions and stop blaming global economic conditions.

Jamaica and Barbados maintain fairly good tourism and trade infrastructures that earn them foreign exchange. However, these two CARICOM nations are actively and aggressively engaged in labour export that provides opportunities for their unemployed skilled workers to seek temporary foreign employment in the United States and Canada. While these two nations, like their other regional colleagues, are engaged in the Canadian seasonal farm workers program, they recognize that it is minuscule and there is need for sourcing other potential opportunities.

Many of our regional governments need to take a page from Barbados and Jamaica as labour export generates good foreign income and also contributes to the improvement of the quality of life. Those regional governments with tunnel vision on labour export must understand that they need to go beyond the seasonal farm workers program.

Our governments can begin exploring new labour market opportunities by putting their consular officials to investigate and identify employment opportunities for skilled unemployed workers in their domain. Canada and other western nations have growing temporary employment opportunities that can utilize the skills of our employed. We need to move beyond the farm workers program.
Recognition and implementation of the above suggestions require our regional Ministries of Labour to become more innovative and forward looking in addressing labour market opportunities in their domain. They might wish to solicit the assistance of the Trinidad-based International Labour Office (ILO) if they decide to become innovative and creative.

Agricultural Revolution underway in the OECS.

OECS Media Release

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017 — The Agriculture Sector in OECS Member States is on the brink of a new era in collaborative production for regional and international trade. A comprehensive grouping of regional agriculture stakeholders, which include Ministers, Manufacturers, Traders, representatives from the Bureau of Standards and the OECS Commission, are working together to ensure the success of the initiative.

 

The virtual OECS Agri-Export Working group began in June of 2016 and, only one year later, has seen many achievements due to the influence and reach of the agricultural stakeholders involved, paired with the technological nature of the ongoing online meeting, which facilitates speedy action and decision making.

 

Main achievements of the Agri-Export Initiative to date include:

 

three refrigerated boats traversing the OECS and the wider Caribbean with agricultural produce and livestock;

improvement of phytosanitary standards;

change in production packaging from bags to boxes;

forging new purchasing links with Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, the United States and Canada;

joint production to fulfill shipment quotas for international trade;

development of an app to connect producers, traders, supermarkets and hotels virtually;

identification of high value crops for each Member State with a view to increase production in these areas for regional and international trade; and

identification of designated Agriculture point persons in each OECS Member State to ensure quick implementation of projects and timely feedback.

Regional trade has been greatly facilitated with the service of the MV Sea Rambler, the MVC American Liberty and the Iron Cat, which export a range of fruits and vegetables from as far north as the British Virgin Islands to as far south as Trinidad and Tobago.

 

Minister for Agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hon. Saboto Caesar, said that while regional trade is a priority as the OECS strives to lower its food import bill, it is also important that Member States aim to be self sufficient.

 

“At all costs, we should try not to import goods which can be produced on the island – whether from the OECS or extra regionally.”

 

“National agricultural platforms need to step up and produce more. We should aim for self sufficiency and collaborate to consolidate exports for extra regional trade,” Minister Caesar said.

Joint production for international markets is an area of great potential for regional integration and the continued development of OECS economies.

 

OECS Director General, Dr. Didacus Jules, said that the extensive achievements that the working group was able to cover in the space of a year was not only testament to inter-regional collaboration but the strong desire of the group to fulfill the economic aspirations of the OECS farming community with new commercial opportunities via the shipping initiative.

 

“Agricultural prosperity remains paramount to the OECS, not only in terms of economic advancement and reducing the unacceptably high food import bill but ideally we want to move to a stage where we, as a region, can produce a marketable surplus for export markets,” Dr. Jules said.

Farmers in Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines recently worked together to fulfill a shipment quota of dasheen to the United States, an order which Minister Caesar said would not have been possible without collaboration.

 

Since the start of the initiative, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has shipped 3,325 50lb boxes of dasheen to the United States; and Dominica, on its first shipment, successfully exported a 20ft container comprising 425 50lb boxes of dasheen.

 

Opportunities to increase extra regional trade have also recently been strengthened by the B767 cargo aircraft service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines which offers 220,000 lbs of cargo space per week. The aircraft also services Grenada which, in addition to securing loaders for goods, plans to invest in refrigerated containers for cold storage.

 

Projections for agricultural production in the region are expected to show a marked increase as Member States prepare for smart production aimed at efficiency and competitiveness, and innovative stakeholder collaboration in the sub region continues.