file photo of farm in St. Kitts.

By Loshaun Dixon

Minister of Agriculture in St. Kitts and Nevis the Hon. Eugene Hamilton has slammed the local agriculture industry in St. Kitts and Nevis for the federation having to import food it could otherwise grow itself.

Hamilton was speaking at the Agriculture Annual review and planning meeting at the Marriott and said that year after year there continues to be a shortfall in food production that leads to an importation of food.

“Any food in our supply chain that is imported that we can grow here is an opportunity lost if we do not take advantage to grow those foods here,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said there was as high as a $3 million gap in food imports, contributing to huge import deficits.

“It seems to me that it is an opportunity for us to stop being pedantic, including the Agriculture Department don’t think I’m leaving them out, and take advantage the opportunities that are provided by those gaps in those figures.”

Hamilton said there was no reason for such a gap when some imported items, like onions, could be grown on St. Kitts and Nevis. He said the Agriculture Department should offer support to farmers to make them financially independent

Hamilton added that society was too dependent on handouts, and should instead invest and grow.

“I am calling on each of including those at the Agriculture Department to put the time in so we can get something more out of this agriculture,” Hamilton said.

Director of Agriculture Melvin James said the 2018 food output in the agricultural sector was lower than that of 2017.

“Our total output was 945.3 metric tons in 2018 and this is less than the year before which was 1094.5. A shortfall of some 11 percent. Out of that, the livestock output was essentially the same. We have challenges with feral animals, water and market access.”

He said there are factors that could lead to an improvement in those areas in 2019.