St. Kitts-Nevis has potential to be ag produce exporter to other OECS islands
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture E. Alistair Edwards said the federation has the potential to become a bigger export than import partner of agricultural produce within the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States).
Edwards said that due to the problems faced in the agricultural sector with respect to monkeys destroying crops, many people are reluctant to go into farming, resulting in the need for importation of agricultural produce from other OECS countries such as Dominica.
“I am confident within my spirit that once these people are aware that the monkey problem goes below economic level, they are going to come in and plant,” he said, adding that there is land available for the planting of crops that can be sold for the local and export markets. However, he said that the monkey problem is a deterrent to many who would like to try their hand at farming.
The permanent secretary also noted that while certain islands are known for growing particular crops that they export, such as Dominica with its ground provisions, plantain and bananas, St. Kitts and Nevis can also develop into a country that grows particular crops for export. “We have an advantage on a number of other commodities,” he says. “Because of their (Dominica) water, their pumpkins never taste as good as St. Kitts’. These are the type of things we have to think about as to how to get back these types of commodities to Dominica,” he said.
He said that white potatoes and onions were once exported to Dominica from St. Kitts and it is important to get back to that stage. “Where people see challenges, we have to look for opportunities,” Edwards said, while noting that a number of farmers only think about the local market for their supply. He said that the ministry will be looking at ways to encourage farmers to think beyond the federation when producing their crops.
He also said the call has been made for the possibility of acquiring a multi-purpose vessel that can transport both produce and people between the islands that are close neighbours, such as Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Maarten/Saint Martin, and Dominica, to increase the federation’s export reach.