By Lissa Joseph (GIS)
On Sep. 27, Tropical Storm Kirk dumped heavy rains and winds on Saint Lucia and the rest of the East Caribbean, leaving a trail of destruction in the agriculture sector in its wake.
One month later, local farmers are still recovering with assistance from the Government of Saint Lucia. With the economic setback caused by Tropical Storm Kirk, Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet said it is crucial for the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, to create a sector that is informed and driven by research and data.
In 2017, in an effort to reduce the food import bill and boost the income of local farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture announced plans to target seven major crops for increased production. The crops are pineapples, cabbages, tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, cantaloupes, and watermelons. The seven-crop policy is critical to the shaping of the Tourism Incentives Act, Prime Minister Chastanet said.
Along with the proposed issuing of contracts to farmers, a ratings system is considered necessary within the scheme. The prime minister notes that in order for success to be attained under the proposed plans, farmers must maintain quality, while serious dialogue and action must be taken toward agro processing.
The prime minister said not enough money is being earned from the sale of bananas, therefore creating by-products is essential to the economic sustainability of all stakeholders.