Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has outlined a number of initiatives to help develop Grenada’s Agriculture Sector.
According to Dr. Mitchell, the commercialisation of government’s estates is a first step to improving whatever negative situations currently affecting the industry.
Speaking to members of the media against the backdrop of another visit to the island by a delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he referred to the commercialization of Limlair, Grand Bras and Mt Reuil estates as necessary for the survival of the agriculture sector.
“Over the years we know we have tremendous assets in the government estates that government had been attempting to manage for years. It has gone from bad to worse (under) … two successive governments including my government,” he said.
Prime Minister Mitchell pointed out that the approach by government in the past to boost agriculture was not working.
“…We made a bold decision to commercialise and therefore the process has been slow, much slower than we want it to be. I wish I could have done it overnight but you have to bring stakeholders and your partners on board and in the process we have missed some timelines as far as that initiative is concerned but we are on the road to this,” he said.
About six months ago, Mitchell’s ruling New National Party (NNP) administration had threatened to take back the Grand Bras estate that was handed over to some of the former 1979-83 Grenada Revolutionary leaders for commercialisation.
Former Agriculture Minister Roland Bhola had accused the operators of the estate of not fulfilling a number of obligations that were signed onto in the agreement.
The revolutionaries denied the charges and insisted that the estate is performing much better than when it was under direct government control.
According to PM Mitchell, the full commercialistion of the estates will be done by the end of 2017, and that certain guidelines would be followed for development, production and employment in the agriculture sector as a whole.
“…Every single one of them (government estates) will in fact be commercialised so we expect to see the enormous improvement in the Agriculture stock in this area”, he said.
Prime Minister Mitchell also touched on the sensitive issue of liberalisation of the commodity boards.
“…I would say better late than never to get our friends in the commodity boards to understand that the present system of monopoly that we operate in a liberalised rural community does not work.”
“…We have the support of the regional international community and financial institutions to ensure that we meet that objective.”
Several of the boards have been rather lukewarm to government-sponsored approaches to liberalise the nutmeg and cocoa boards.
Prime Minister Mitchell is confident that “we will see some enormous improvements before the end of the year” in achieving the objective.
He said that at the moment there are several initiatives to add value to the island’s raw agricultural products especially in cocoa and nutmegs.
He announced that government intends to roll out a number of small farming business initiatives to target the nation’s young men.
“The small business initiative of government will be targeting some of government lands to be made available to young people – particularly young men (who) were showing tremendous interest in establishing their own private initiative in the sector”.
He underscored the need to empowering these young people “by giving them the necessary resources, making it available and giving them the support system to manage appropriately with the technical advice necessary from the Ministry of Agriculture and other partners regionally and otherwise”.
Agriculture, once considered as the mainstay of the Grenadian economy has been on the decline in recent years, and Tourism is now the major foreign exchange earner and job creating avenue for the country.