The Department of Agriculture in Nevis is reviving cotton cultivation. Cotton, which was cultivated up to three years ago, is expected to have its first revived planting not later than August this year.
This was disclosed on Wednesday, May 2 in an interview with the Director of Agriculture in Nevis, Dr. Kelvin Daly where he also mentioned some of the measures being taking to fully resuscitate the planting of cotton.
Daly said the Department has overcome one of the major problems being encountered in the labor sector. He said the influx of migrants from within and across the region, especially, Guyana, has greatly helped in eradicating the problem.
He mentioned some of the new initiatives being put in place to attract farmers to the crop.
“If need be, we have to be more creative in trying to attract more persons to help in the harvest of the crops. It is a viable crop in terms of the benefits to farmers. This year, we are willing to pay farmers more than what they normally get. The world price of cotton has tremendously gone up especially this type of cotton which is now putting up to 8USD for a lint. It is expensive primarily because of the manual labor involved as there is no means for mechanical harvesting like the ones being practiced in the United States where the cotton could be sucked off the branches with machines. Our branches here are irregular and larger than most found in the United States and thus they have to be picked by hand,” he said.
He spoke of the advancement made in land clearing and preparation.
“We started preparing a new site in Indian Castle since December last year and we have managed to clear over 60 acres of land which is now in the process of fenced,” he said.
He added that they are not ready to take chances as the department has set out to make the best use of the upcoming crop.
“The irrigation process is ongoing because the area is dry and we are not ready to take any chances, we are looking at having as much irrigators as possible and at the same time putting into consideration the wind and insect control,” he said.
He said the department has 40 persons employed on various government estates at the moment and all be participants in the cultivation and harvesting of the crop.
He disclosed the availability of a guaranteed and buoyant market.
“The major thing is that there is a willing and able buyer. Whatever is produced will be sold. When you have a market that is endless, it needs enthusiasm to buy what you have and then you have to use all your incentives to go ahead. If we have any doubt about whether we will get the cotton sold, we would not be proceeding.
“Another exciting thing is the fact that we have persons who came all the way from Japan last year and have been in touch ever since. They have contributed a sum of money to help with the project, I think that’s exciting.”
He continued, “My belief is that if you want to do something, do it well and make it impressive. People have expressed concerns as to how we will survive with the 60 acres plantation which is 300% more than the previous. We are not trying to impress anyone, if you can get to 20, why not 60 as this is basically the same mechanism. You started planting and you started reaping. Once we have the right people at the right place and who are ready to monitor the crop, probably 300 acres could be the next.”
He added: “The generator supervisor from the equipment pool has inspected the generator and found it to be in working condition. The building and the storage are there. I believe the infrastructure has much been waiting for our rebirth.”
He said cultivation is expected to begin within the first two weeks of August while harvesting is expected to begin in January 2008. He added that after harvesting, from speculations based on the production from the mother plants but leaving out natural factors like hurricanes and others, the gross estimate income is expected to exceed a total of 2 million ECD.
He said the department is fortunate enough to have some of the equipment needed for the execution of the project already available in the department.
“Fencing tools and manpower to harvest are already available but the biggest cost we are looking now is the drip system which costs 25,000USD out of which 5000USD has been contributed by donors,“ he said.
“We have our own wells, so our well water will be used in supplying the crops,“ he added.
He disclosed the the biggest threat to agriculture in Nevis.
“The biggest threat to agriculture in Nevis are the monkeys and the population in Nevis is pushing up to 50,000 monkeys and for that reason some persons have refused to go into farming”
He however disclosed the measures being put in place by the Department of Agriculture to combat the havoc being caused by the monkeys.
“ People have expressed concerns with the population of monkey especially in New River and India Castle where they tend to be higher in number. As it is used to be decades ago, we are looking to have armed ranger at the location with a shot gun .We will be applying for a permit from the police department for shotguns and will employ a fulltime staff for that purpose. If you have a troop of 300 monkeys in an onion farm of half an acre, I bet you have no chance” he said.