Basseterre, St. Kitts – While the Ministry of Agriculture is aggressively pursuing strategies and initiatives geared at boosting agricultural output in St. Kitts and Nevis, the Honourable Samal Duggins said greater attention must also be placed on preventing or limiting post-production losses.
“It is believed, Madam Speaker, that we lose about sixty percent (60%) of what we produce post-harvest. By any measure, that is a significant figure and so if we want to achieve our agenda [of attaining the CARICOM 25 by 2025 goal], we must tackle this area,” Minister Duggins said, while lending his support to the 2024 Budget Debate on December 14, 2023.
The honourable minister outlined the plans and programmes the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Marine Resources intends to streamline in the upcoming year to further boost the sector. Minister Duggins revealed that they have approached a leading regional expert in post-harvest crop management who have agreed to provide training for farmers in the Federation.
“One of the things that allow our fresh produce to spoil very quickly is improper storage, and so Madam Speaker, we are going to increase our storage capacity because we just have to if we are increasing production,” he said. “I am happy and thrilled to say that we have already procured two brand new walk-in chills that will be installed at the Tabernacle Outreach Center.”
It is expected that the two walk-in chills will be installed before the end of the first quarter of 2024. Chills will also be installed at the Department of Agriculture and at the Greenhouse Village upon its completion.
“Madam Speaker, this right here will inevitably extend the natural shelf life of our produce and increase our consistency in supplying the market. And so, once we are able to store our produce in a proper storage system and we are trained to handle and package them well, then they go to the market [in great condition] which means the consumer [will be] happier to purchase,” said Minister Duggins.
The Minister of Agriculture said he has had conversations with the management of several supermarket chains in St. Kitts, namely RAMS Supermarket and Valu Mart, on the subject of purchasing more local produce.
“Those two specifically have committed that once we have consistency then they will look to St. Kitts first before importing anything that we can produce here,” Minister Duggins said.