Although government has indicated in the Throne Speech delivered last week Wednesday by Governor-General, Dame Cecile La Grenade that Agriculture is a major pillar of the Grenadian economy and society, farmers’ representative in the Senate, Keith Clouden wants more to be done.
Speaking to THE NEW TODAY after the speech, Sen. Clouden chided the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) for only talking about things to be done in Agriculture but not doing it.
“I am disappointed because government keeps saying the things we want, the root crop programmes, the fruit trees and so on (but) they are not making investments,” he said.
Dame Cecile outlined the key priority areas in agriculture as implementing the Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Action Plan, supporting agribusiness development especially in the area of value addition, supporting investments in root crops such as cassava, fruit tree crops, nutmeg, cocoa and sour sop, as well as continuing with the implementation of the Praedial Larceny Strategy and Action Plan, developing and implementing a Livestock policy with special emphasis on poultry, agriculture and small ruminants.
Sen. Clouden who is also a farmer by profession said this is nothing new that is being offered by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government.
“Some of them remain the same – what we have become accustomed to especially in agriculture (is) that they would do the root crops, that they would do the fruit trees, they would do value addition, they would do sour sop but they have said so for almost the past three years”, he told this newspaper.
“…I am hoping that this year, they would put in the resources so that we can procure the planting material. The problem is that they have not made the investment in these areas and if they were to make the investment in these areas, we are going to be able to create a lot more employment, create a lot more opportunities for generating foreign exchange and also building our people’s food and nutrition security,” he said.
Sen. Clouden lamented that one of the programmes he would like to see given priority is the Farm labour support programme.
He said: “You know the average age for farmers, they need a help, they are not as active as they used to be and therefore I am disappointed that they were unable to mount up a Farm labour support programme that has in the past great potential and a lot of positive results.
“So that part alone in my mind suggest that government has to take agriculture serious and they are not taking it as serious as we would like to and they have another opportunity to improve because as far as we are concerned as farmers they are not serious …”, he added.
The Farmer’s representative in the Upper House also identified crop insurance as another priority area that needs addressing by government.
He noted that $5000 was allocated in last year’s budget for that purpose and $10,000 in the year before.
This, according to Sen. Clouden does not represent half of what should be done in respect to crop insurance.
“I have initiated moves to get crop insurance for cocoa and nutmeg to start with and we have made good strides in that regard but not putting 5 and 10 thousand dollars in the budget and call that crop insurance.
‘Have they ever touched it (the money) but for what? Are they going to give one person assistance and not the other? How do you arrive at $5000 or $10,000 and they drop back down so I think it’s just a question of telling farmers what they want to hear.
Sen. Clouden believes that once government recognise the importance of agriculture and put the requisite investment and work along with the farmers, the achievements in the sector would be endless.
Agriculture has been identified over the years as the mainstay of the Grenadian economy but several of the governments in recent years have been consistently accused of paying only lip service to the sector.