Former Government Minister Patrick Simmons has called on the Keith Mitchell Administration to have consultations with stakeholders before proceeding with the planned amalgamation of the cocoa and nutmeg associations.
Simmons told a public meeting of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) that took place last week Wednesday at Pearls, St. Andrew’s that if the liberalisation of these associations are to be materialised consultation should be held with the farmers informing them about how the process of liberalisation would take place.
“They (government) should come clean and say exactly what is happening – too much of action behind the back door,” he said.
Simmons, the former Parliamentary Representative for St. Andrew’s South-east also addressed the economic depression facing the people of St. Andrew’s.
He said that in recent times two banks in the Town of Grenville have closed, while another bank is due to close its doors by the end of July.
“Out of the five banks in Grenville, three are closed and only two (are) operating. That is a reflection of bad policy as it relates to agriculture in our parish,” he told the gathering.
The General Secretary of Congress indicated that apologists of the ruling New National Party (NNP) Government of Prime Minister Mitchell are saying that the closure of the banks has nothing to do with government.
However, he believes that if the economy in rural Grenada was buoyant, there would have been no reason for the banks to cease operations in Grenville.
“The reason why the banks are being shut is because they are located in the rural part of the country and as a result those in the Capital City will always get preference, and we could understand that. So in order for us to survive in this parish we must pay attention to agriculture,” he said.
Simmons charged that the entire economy in St. Andrew’s is collapsing due to the absence of a vision for agriculture in the parish and the entire country by the Mitchell-led government.
Stating that agriculture is the single most important sector of the parish, the ex-government minister in the 2008-13 Congress administration noted that in the 2015 budget, there was a total expenditure of $1,152,234,237.00 for the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, out of which $39.1M is allocated to agriculture.
The former Government Minister said Congress understands the importance of agriculture to the local economy hence the reason why agriculture and agro-business was one of the five pillars identified for economic growth.
He stressed that the record will show that between 2008 and 2013 a lot was done for agriculture under the Congress Government of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and that in 2010 and 2011, the agriculture sector grew by 9.4 percent and 8.25 percent respectively.
Additionally, he said outside of the period of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution of late marxist leader, Maurice Bishop, the only other Prime Ministers who would have placed emphasis on agriculture were Sir Nicholas Brathwaite and Tillman Thomas of Congress.
The economic plight being faced by residents of St. Andrew’s was also echoed by another senior executive member of the NDC, Sylvester Quarless, a former Member of Parliament for St. Andrew South-west.
According to Quarless, he did a research over the past month and it shows that 21 medium-sized and small businesses in St. Andrew’s and in the Town of Grenville have been closed, and that the situation in the parish is dire.
Quarless, a former Minister of Social Services also told party supporters at the public meeting that the fishing industry in St. Andrew’s is struggling.
He said the sargassum seaweed is affecting fishing in the parish, and accused government of not acting on the matter.
Quarless said the matter is being dealt with by other countries in the region including St. Lucia, Barbados, Tobago, Dominica and St. Vincent which has the same problem of the convergence of the seaweed on the seashore.