Former Agriculture Minister Moses Jn Baptiste is predicting that a bleak future awaits livestock farming in Saint Lucia.
“Livestock from the Beausejour Agricultural Complex in Vieux Fort are being sold and their pens cleared in what signals the beginning of the end, to a long and illustrious history of excellence in agriculture, particularly in the area of animal husbandry and animal-based food production in Saint Lucia,” Jn Baptiste wrote on the official Facebook Page of the opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP).
The Vieux Fort North MP noted that the Beausejour Station and all of its facilities will cease to exist, to accommodate a horse racing track.
According to Jn Baptiste, the completed and fully-equipped Meat Processing Facility is a critical asset within the Beausejour Station and is a significant loss to the economy of Saint Lucia and to livestock farmers.
He said the farmers were hopeful that they would see increasing incomes once it had become operational.
The former minister declared that a projected EC $25 million dollars in income, has been lost and hundreds of farmers, have lost an opportunity to earn income from sales of livestock to the modern Meat Processing Facility.
“This lost opportunity would have injected cash into the veins of the rural economy, to help with a rural economic revival which is has not happened since the days of the banana boom,” Jn Baptiste lamented.
He expressed the view that construction of a national abattoir or Meat Processing Facility was absolutely necessary .
He recalled that between 1997 and 2004 four independent studies by international experts concluded just that.
The former minister asserted that a 1999 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) study, identified the “absence of quality standards for production, processing and marketing” and “absence of appropriate slaughtering, processing and marketing facilities” as two major constraints to the development of Saint Lucia’s livestock sector.
He observed that consequently, in 2001 Saint Lucia Labour Party government, by Cabinet Conclusion No.1198 dated 19th November of 2001, secured lands at Beausejour Vieux Fort for the construction of the National Abattoir. In fact, 2.98 acres of land (Block #1219B, Parcel#4), was secured for the National Abattoir.
Jn Baptiste recalled that work on the Meat Processing Facility(MPF), was eventually started during 2009 after several reviews.
He commented that although some opined that the project would have sustainability challenges, most agreed that it was indeed important and strategic for the food security and rural economic revival of the Saint Lucian society.
“Funding was sought from the Taiwanese government who provided EC $12.5 million dollars and the taxpayers of Saint Lucia provided at least EC $ 9 million dollars,” he stated.
Jn Baptiste said that there were many starts and stops during the construction between 2009 and 2011.
“When I was given the honor to be the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development and Cooperatives, the ministry had to make several adjustments to repair deficiencies and to finally complete the project. By June 2016, the facility was complete with equipment installed and utilities connected,” he observed.
He declared that the “so called “DSH Pearl of the Caribbean” fiasco” doomed the Meat Processing Facility and all the hope of substituting EC 25 million dollars’ worth of meat imports in addition to the possibility of creating wealth for hundreds.
“For over three years the UWP administration has promised another processing plant, for over three years the livestock farmers; small ruminant farmers, cattle farmers and pig farmers, have been mislead and openly lied to and for over three years further frustration has become widespread among an already stressed livestock-farmer community. Now there is talk of the demolition of the facility or the repurposing of a nearly EC 25-million-dollar national asset,” Jn Baptiste wrote on the SLP’s official Facebook page.
“It is for you to make up your own mind about yet another assault on the assets of Saint Lucia by the UWP administration. This is another opportunity gone, another catalyst for the Saint Lucian economy handed over to a foreign interest by the whims and fancies of a desperate and self-serving government,” he stated.