by Linda Straker
- Covid-19 containment measures have caused GCNA and GCA to seek financial support from government
- Biggest markets for nutmeg are Europe and Argentina which are currently closed
- 12 tons of nutmeg scheduled to be exported to Canada on Friday, 26 June
Closure of borders at main export markets because of Covid-19 containment measures have caused the management of the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association (GCNA) and the Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA) to seek financial support from government, as part of a strategy to sustain the local industry until arrangements can be made to exports the crops.
“We approached government for what we called “backup funds” because the boards of both associations had a joint meeting to give the impact of Covid-19 on the industry,” said Leo Cato, Chairman of the Board of the GCNA. “We do not know how long Covid-19 will last. Since March the market in Europe has been closed, and that is where we sell most of our produce,” he said while providing justification for approaching government to support a proposal that will allow the associations to purchase produce from farmers in the absence of its normal revenue stream. “We felt that the impact will be longer than we think. We do not know how long the market will remain closed, so we approached the government for support because we want to be able to buy from farmers even though we cannot sell.”
The biggest markets for nutmeg are Europe and Argentina. “The borders of both markets are closed. We sell to some Caricom states, but these are small shipments,” Cato said.
Government has announced that the GCNA will receive EC$3 million in total, with EC$2 million as a loan with an interest rate of 1.5% over a 9-year period; while the GCA will receive EC$2 million with EC$1 million in grant and the other as a loan. Government has requested the title deed for one of the properties as part of the legal arrangement.
Nutmeg and cocoa farmers were among the last to have restrictions lifted under the ongoing State of Emergency, and Cato said that since the restriction was lifted, both associations have allowed for more than EC$5 million to be circulated through the country through farmers.
There are more than 6,000 registered farmers with some selling as low as 5 pounds and others selling hundreds of pounds. “Collectively, both associations, particularly the nutmeg, are making a significant financial contribution to the farming community, so we need the support from government,” said Naline Joseph, who formerly served on the board of GCNA.
At present most of the existing storage facility is packed with nutmegs, and one station which has not been used in years has become a new storage area. A small shipment of 12 tons is scheduled to be exported to Canada on Friday, 26 June 2020.
Amid this financial challenge, farmers are up in arms about a draft piece of legislation that appears to pave the way for the liberalisation of the sectors and merge the operations of the two associations. Elvis Morain, GCNA board member and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, said that it’s unfortunate that the proposal legislation was leaked to the wider public, because it was never the intention of government to not have consultations with the stakeholders.