By John Denny
(Prospect, Nevis) – The Nevis Island Administration’s decision to ban imported pork and the Department of Agriculture’s push for micro-farming have begun to bear fruit for both farmers and consumers on the island, according to the Director of Agriculture Dr. Kelvin Daly.
“The ban was put in place because the local pork was not moving and we were experiencing a glut,” said Dr. Daly. “We know through their intensive farming methods, the U.S. and Canada can ship their pork all the down here and still sell it cheaper than we can, but ours is of a higher quality. It is no more than two weeks old and there are no hormones or chemicals added.”
Local pork producers were consulted before the ban was placed to ensure there is enough locally to support the market and Dr. Daley said there is plenty.
“We kill about five hogs per week, but we could be producing a lot more,” he said. “We lack freezer space for storage so the farmers have to keep their hogs longer than they want and as long as they have them, they have to continue to feed. Feed prices continue to rise, so we have to figure out what to do about this.”
There are enough hogs being raised on the island to export, but shipping is unreliable and there lacks an infrastructure for exporting the goods directly to where they will bring the highest price.
“Before (9/11) shipping in the region moved much more easily from place to place. But after (9/11), especially around the U.S. Virgin Islands, it’s terrible,” he said. “There are so many restrictions that many of the shipping companies don’t want to bother with it. We need some government involvement in the area of shipping and exporting. Something like they did in air transportation. There is a demand for pork in Anguilla, but no one ships straight there. We have to first ship it to St. Maarten, unload and reload it onto another vessel before it goes on to Anguilla. All that makes the cost go up and up.”
There is word that CARICOM is seeking shipping development for the region from the private sector.
“They want someone to step up and fill this gap,” said Dr. Daly. “But I have not seen any evidence that they are doing anything to help facilitate shipping within the region. There are many steps that could be taken to make shipping easier such as waiving docking fees, reducing duty and making agreements with U.S. territories. There is no way we can use all that we produce here. We need to do something to facilitate exportation.”
On a sustainable note, there has been a demand for information and support for micro-farming on Nevis after many new methods were showcased at the annual agricultural exposition. One technique on display was Bagriculture, where the growing soil is in a rice or feed bag essentially using it for a flower pot, just as transportable, but much cheaper.
“Back yard farming is something everyone used to do, but we lost touch with it,” he said, “When people saw some of the techniques such as the Bagriculture, they realized they could grow food anywhere, on their rooftops, in their driveway or in between their hibiscus. Plants are very easy to take care of this way. It is a good way to put food on the table and to grow some to sell. With all the response we have in this area, it is good to know our message is getting out.”