A new four-year agricultural project has been designed to enhance the quality of agricultural produce for consumers, said Acting Director of Agriculture Ian Chapman. Called the ‘Vegetable, Fruit and Upland Crop Quality and Safety Improvement Project’, farmers and agriculture officers would be trained in a series of programs over a four-year period, courtesy funding and technical support from the Republic of China on Taiwan, in collaboration with the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis. The US$3.2 million project would help to improve crop yield by addressing various problems associated with pesticide management and post harvest management and testing, Mr. Chapman explained. A component of the project promotes less dependency on chemical fertilizers and the increasing use of organic fertilizers, thus promoting healthier farming practices and better food products, said the agricultural official. The project will incorporate the use of a new pesticide testing process called the Rapid Bioassay of Pesticide Residue, developed at the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, as a low cost fruit and vegetable testing procedure, that helps ensure that pesticide tainted products do not reach consumers. According to Mr. Chapman, St. Kitts and Nevis would be the first country in the Caribbean to use the testing procedure that can identify contaminants much faster than traditionally used methods, “in minutes rather than days”. In support of this program, a EC$675,000 Government of Taiwan funded facility is now under construction in the Needsmust area to house two laboratories, one designed to test for pesticide residues on vegetables and fruits, and the other to determine types of nutrients in organic fertilizers, so that missing nutrients could be provided to the soil. “Such services would help farmers to reduce wastage, save money and boost incomes,”opined the agriculture official. Four lab technicians would receive training from the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute. Meanwhile, participating farmers and agricultural officers continued training recently in pesticide management and best practices facilitated by Professor Li-Cheng Tang and Ms. Tau-Mei Chou from Taiwan. Speaking at the training session, His Excellency Ambassador Miguel Tsao of the Republic of China (Taiwan) told participants, “St. Kitts and Nevis is taking the lead in pesticide management and food safety in the Caribbean”, and stated that the Government of Taiwan shares a commitment to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and the farmers to move to a higher stage in agriculture cooperation. Speaking about the agricultural project, an official of Rams Supermarket told the observer that “any initiative that ensures safety in the food supply chain should be supported”, but pointed out that regardless of such a project, “food safety is an expectation of consumers from all licensed entities”in the food business. One participating farmer told the Observer, “The project would help me to prepare for exporting. The soil testing would help me to know what is the right fertilizer to apply and in the correct amounts and enable me to improve the quality and quantity of my produce. This is a helpful and welcomed program.”The project is part of the Ministry of Agriculture broader food security initiative that also includes fishers. Several weeks ago, a group of fishers completed training in fish processing enabling them to market fish in the form of branded and packaged fillet using the facilities of the Basseterre Fisheries Complex.