Minister for Agriculture, Lands, Forestry & Fisheries Hon Yolande Bain–Horsford, on Thursday, 25 May addressed the statutory bi-annual general meeting of the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association (GCNA), at the GCNA complex, Kirani James Boulevard, St George.
The minister congratulated the GCNA, its farmers, Board of Directors and management “for once again navigating quite successfully, what has been undoubtedly a very challenging year.” She stated that “the Nutmeg Industry today is challenged with many intractable problems,” including low prices on the international market which has impacted negatively on the finances of the GCNA, its ability to invest more in the industry, praedial larceny, and higher expectations by farmers in relation to advanced prices. The following points are excerpted from her address.
The Nutmeg Industry Requires Vital Interventions For Sustainability
- Urgent need for changes in attitude of stakeholders involved in the industry to reflect changes in market forces. The association receives around $8000 per ton, which equates to about $5.40 per pound. After advance payments to farmers, the GCNA is left with minimum money to take care of all its commitments eg processing, shipping, transport, staff salaries, etc.
- Detailed financial information is disseminated to farmers and is presented and discussed at the area meetings, which are not well attended — a serious indictment on both farmers and management. The GCNA Management must find a way to boost attendance at its meetings where the important business of the industry is discussed.
- The GCNA has proactively begun the implementation of key recommendations geared at enhancing food safety measures right across the nutmeg value chain.
- Urgent need for farmers to be trained in proper handling of nutmeg and mace especially in the post-harvest phase, as it is not acceptable to see farmers spreading mace to dry where animals could easily urinate or defecate on.
- Reconfiguration of the nutmeg processing facilities to enhance food safety.
- GCNA’s Board is now working on using the Beaulieu facility for more efficiency in the processing of nutmeg, resulting in major savings.
- Adoption of measures geared at ensuring traceability procedures in the nutmeg value chain must be implemented.
- Implementation of climate smart agricultural methodologies and principles.
- The Ministry is working with donor funding agencies and development partners in advancing climate smart agriculture.
- Initiatives in the Integrated Climate Change Adaptation Strategies (ICCAS) project, especially the UNDP component under which many farmers have benefitted, in the areas of rainwater harvesting, roads, bridges, etc.
The GCNA must be managed on very strict business principles
- All financial decisions made by the GCNA must be done in keeping with the financial status of the association on any given moment.
- When prices on the market are strong farmers must be paid a very good price and vice versa.
- Special savings must be put in place as a buffer so that when prices are low on the market, advance payments made to farmers will be cushioned from that special savings.
Development of Value Addition In Nutmeg
- Development of high priced nutmeg based value added products.
- GCNA must explore the possibility of diversifying its markets and products marketing.
Commitment of Ministry/Government Support to the Nutmeg and Agricultural Industry
- Concessions to the farming and fishing sub-sectors over the last 3 years (January 2014 to May 5, 2017) total EC$2,651,296.05.
- Waiver of duties on agricultural inputs such as irrigation pumps and equipment, fertilisers and other agrochemicals.
- Provision of subsidised planting materials.
- Investments in farm and feeder roads.
- Investments in labour subsidy programmes.
- Cash payments to farmers because of catastrophe resulting from natural disasters, eg heavy rains and inundation in November 2016.
- Provision of technical assistance, etc to farmers.
The Minister stated that “…beginning June 2017, Government will no longer be granting concessions on vehicles which are more than 5 years. This decision has been taken in keeping with Government’s policy in safeguarding the environment from potential harm which can be inflicted by old vehicles.”
Initiatives currently implemented by the Ministry
The Farm Labour Support Programme
- $500,000 has been budgeted in the 2017 programme.
Activities include support for
- 25 acres each of new planting of nutmeg and cocoa
- Development of 25 acres of exotic spices
- Cultivation of 100 acres of soursop
- Rehabilitation of 4 farms roads (1 in each district)
- Support in soil and water conservation (drainage), etc.
Initiation of the Land Bank Project
- Officially started on Monday 22 May in collaboration with the FAO.
- Administration of lands/idle lands in Grenada.
- Improved access by young people and other landless persons who are desirous of farming.
Agriculture Competitiveness Project
- Funded by the World Bank and expected to start in September 2017.
- Main objective to build competitiveness in the agricultural sector.
- Budget is US$4 Million.
Continued implementation of the Integrated Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (ICCAS)
- Implemented over the last 3 years and many farmers have benefited.
- Development of strategies to decrease the impacts of climate change.
- Development of Climate Smart Agriculture approaches, training, etc.
Building resilience in the agricultural sector
- Will start soon and will be funded by the Global Environment Facility.
- Nutmeg Farmers could benefit significantly from proper soil and water conservation practices.
- Roads will be rehabilitated under the Labour Support Programme.
- Farm roads will be rehabilitated under MAREP.
- Farm and feeder roads are expected to be upgraded by the Ministry of Works during the upcoming months.
Support from the Compete Caribbean Programme “Strengthening Export Competitiveness in the Agricultural Sector”
- Geared at modernising the legislations of the nutmeg and cocoa sectors through feedback from the GCNA and GCA.
- Proposal for farmers to own shares of the GCNA.
- Financial Reconstruction and New Business Model for the association.
- The Minister stated that liberalisation of the spice industry is a contentious issue that is being discussed at the policy level and a statement will be issued once there is consensus on same.
Areas of cooperation between the Ministry and the GCNA
- Permanent Secretary, Merina Jessamy and Chief Agricultural Officer, Daniel Lewis, Ministry of Agriculture participated in all 6 GCNA area meetings.
- The ministry strongly advocates an aide-memoire be signed to achieve the following:
- Sourcing of grant funds for the developmental projects
- Branding of nutmeg as national symbol/icon
- Registration ‘Isle of Spice’
- Concessions for the development of the Nutmeg subsector
- Access to USA retail market
- Achieve quality assurance targets
- Research & development activities
- Farm equipment pool
- Collaborative hosting of the 2017 Agri-Business Expo
- Collaboration to ensure that nutmeg remains the king of spices.