BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, September 23, 2021 (MMS-SKN) — The highly anticipated Independence Night Market held on Wednesday September 22 at the Basseterre Public Market lived up to its billing with stall owners thanking their number one patron, Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris, who spent about two hours patronising the different stalls.
Hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Marine Resources, Permanent Secretary Mr Ron Dublin Collins said it was a success story for the ministry, as it had provided a forum for the country’s vendors, farmers, and fishers to get their produce sold and to introduce them to the wider buying public and for them to have the on-going support from the public.
“The Prime Minister has always been very supportive of the various activities and initiatives,” said the Permanent Secretary who was one of the officials accompanying Dr Harris as he visited the various stalls. Also present were the Director of Marine Resources, Dr Marc Williams, and the Acting Director of Agriculture, Dr Tracey Challenger-Walters.
According to Mr Collins, Prime Minister Harris has provided tremendous support in budgetary support to the ministry starting with a stimulus package that was then styled the ‘agricultural support project’, and through it the ministry has been able to support the farmers.
“So it was not a surprise to see his presence at the Independence Night Market,” said the Permanent Secretary. “He is passionate about the market and the new initiatives that we are introducing within the market.”
The Independence Night Market had opened at 5:00 p.m. and persons coming in had their hands sanitised, temperature taken, and their contacts recorded, after which they were given a ticket and advised to keep it safely as the numbers would be entered in a draw and the lucky winners would be given attractive prizes on an hourly basis.
The first winner was Ms Annie Marsham of Half Way Tree, who received her prize from Permanent Secretary Mr Ron Dublin Collins.
The lively mood at the market further energised after Prime Minister Harris arrived shortly after 7:15 p.m. and remained in the market for nearly two hours as he moved from stall to stall and not only buying from the stall owners, but discussing with them at length.
Market stall owner Ms Sherrilyn Brandy, who has been street vending for well over 25 years and recently relocated into the Basseterre Public Market, said that she is seeing more people coming to the market which means that they are getting more health conscious by buying fresh produce, which she said was a good thing.
“The night market was very good, and we were very happy to have Prime Minister Harris as one of our customers,” said Ms Brandy. “Yes he bought from me. He bought from everybody and that is a good thing. He is giving us his support. I like the support he gives us, and the fact that he stands and listens to us. He just don’t buy – he stands up and whatever questions you have, he will answer.”
When the third lucky winner was announced, Prime Minister Harris was requested to present the prize to the delighted winner – Mrs Mary DeSuza-Liburd.
“We have seen some success stories from persons who have spoken about how they connected for the first time with particular vendors and so on and continuing that relationship,” pointed out Permanent Secretary Mr Ron Dublin Collins. “We see for example the layout, its variety – we have fish, we have meat, we had cooked food, we had vegetables and fruits, and the agro-processors of various types.”
The Permanent Secretary said that the ministry has seen some new agro-processors come on board – those making wines, cakes, and some dealing with hand sanitisers. He noted that they are adapting, as this year’s independence theme says they need to adapt as they go forward dealing with Covid.
“Overall, we think it was well done,” said Mr Collins. “The committee did a good work and we want to continue. We are looking forward to the one in December now. It is just part of a larger effort to enhance agriculture which we are about to launch towards new strategy planning. We are on our way to ensure that agriculture is better positioned to contribute to the development of our country.”
In the meantime Director of Marine Resources, Dr Marc Williams, said that the Independence Night Market was a tremendous success, where a lot of patrons come out to support the farmers and fishermen in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“We also saw the Prime Minister coming out to support the fishing and farming community,” said Dr Williams. “For years he has shown a strong interest in fishing and farming. He was the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture on two different occasions and now you see in his role as the Prime Minister he has allocated a significant amount of funding for the growth of development of the sector. He mingled with the patrons tonight.”
The Director of Marine Resources added: “We had a large amount of fisheries products because you know fish is one of the healthier meats for persons who have non-communicable diseases (NCDs). So we take this as a stepping stone and we hope that the next time we have this event it will be bigger and better than what we see here tonight, but overall it has been a tremendous success.”