Senior civil servants accused of illegal importation of sour sop seeds

Head of government’s Zero Hunger Project, Dr. Malachy Dottin and Roy Augustine of the Ministry of Agriculture have been accused of importing into the country sour sop seeds from Colombia and Brazil respectively.

The accusation was made by Farmer’s Representative in the Upper House of Parliament, Senator Keith Clouden while addressing the Senate on a number of matters last week Friday.

Sen. Clouden who  stopped short of going into full details of the “illegal importation” of the seedlings by President of the Senate Chester Humphrey said both Dottin and Augustine who are senior members of the ministry ought to know better.

Sen. Humphrey felt that he has to protect the integrity of the House as neither of the accused men are Members and are unable to defend themselves of the allegations made against them.

“I will prefer if you bring the matter in a substantive motion  where notice is served so that everyone will have adequate opportunity to research the question and to come to the House prepared to debate”, the Senate President told Sen. Clouden.

“It is very unfair to use the privileges of the House, especially when names are called… the individuals don’t have the privilege to respond,” he said.

Several members of the Lower House especially  senior government ministers often use sittings of Parliament to attack persons who cannot respond to the allegations in the house.

In a previous sitting, Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Simon Stiell denied that the Ministry of Agriculture has granted license to anyone for the importation of sour sop seeds from Colombia or Brazil in accordance with the Plant Protection Act of 1986, Cap 242.

Sen. Stiell said no one has submitted or reported the evidence to the Ministry of Agriculture to indicate that sour sop seeds were being imported from either Colombia or Brazil.

“Any person possessing such evidence is, therefore, advised to submit it to the Ministry (of Agriculture),” he told the Senate.

Dr. Dottin is believed to be running a private plant nursery in the St. George North-west constituency.

Sen. Clouden also informed the Senate that farmers are yet to receive the promised relief assistance from the cash-strapped government that was made by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell during the presentation of the 2016 budget for damage suffered last November by the unusual rainfall.

One million dollars was allocated in the budget to be used for the damage sustained by farmers due to the rain.

Sen. Clouden said the rainfall, especially of November 8th and 9th has caused most of the rivers to flood their banks thus causing enormous damages to the crops.

“This is three months since we have had that adverse weather condition, and to date no relief assistance,” he told the Senate.

The Farmer’s Representative also  said the Mirabeau Farm Machinery in St. Andrew’s which provides tractor service to farmers have been without diesel over the last two months.

Sen. Clouden believes that as a result of the rainfall received at the end of the year on the island, the ground would have been suitable for tractor service.

He indicated that ploughing of the land constitutes a very important part of successful farming.

Sen. Clouden said the unavailability of tractor service at that time has frustrated the farming community causing them not to be able to meet commitments to the State-owned Grenada Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB), supermarkets, and restaurants.

According to the Farmer’s Representative, Easter is a time of the year when certain events take place and it is a good opportunity for farmers to cash in on the extra sales.

He expressed fears that farmers might lose markets because of the untimely availability of diesel for the tractors.

Sen. Clouden also pleaded on behalf of the tractor operators whom he said have to operate the vehicles without a covering that can protect them from the weather condition.

He also claimed that they are being paid as chauffeurs and not as operators of heavy-duty equipment.

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