Statement by Hon. Yolande Bain Horsford
The challenges brought on by Covid-19 have forced the entire nation to endure some level of sacrifice. For some of the nation’s farmers, the State of Emergency, restricted access to their farms resulting in losses in produce.
Notwithstanding this, we must appreciate that this decision was taken first to protect lives by containing the spread of the virus – a decision that impacted the economy negatively.
Having done a preliminary assessment, the government committed EC$5 million as part of the Stimulus Package for the Agricultural Sector. However, to date the cabinet approved over EC$6 million as a direct response to the impact of Covid-19 on the sector. And I am pleased to report that this will increase as the cabinet considers a proposal from the Grenada Cocoa Association for financial support.
It is important to note that the ministry went through a rigorous process of formulating the Food Security Mitigation and Response Plan in collaboration with the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB). The MNIB’s involvement was strategic, given the challenges farmers faced during the initial stage of the pandemic with marketing their produce as a result of the repatriation of SGU students and the impact of the pandemic on the tourism and hospitality sector.
Therefore, the ministry had to offer some immediate relief to farmers thereby, providing an avenue for farmers to sell their produce by establishing farmers’ markets throughout the state. I am pleased to announce that through this initiative the ministry has invested over EC$100,000 to ensure that the nation’s hardworking farmers were able to market their produce, thus securing their livelihoods.
I am also pleased to reveal that the cabinet has approved the work plan and budget for just under EC$1 million for the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB) to address the immediate challenges with marketing, distribution and storage of agricultural produce.
This we believe will bring much relief to farmers during this challenging period.
As the ministry continues to cushion the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the agricultural sector, it will focus on 3 areas in the short term, which are as follows:
- The implementation of its restructured Farm Labour Programme, which encompasses two components:
- Tree crops (nutmeg, cocoa, soursop, coconut etc.)
- Root crops, vegetable and tubers.
NB: This initiative targets commercial farmers and will see a total of 400 acres under cultivation.
2. The Implementation of the back-yard garden component:
- 500 families will benefit from this initiative along with a few geriatric homes
- Each recipient will receive a backyard garden kit with a variety of seeds/seedlings, tools and other agricultural inputs and a tech pack
NB: The ministry’s technical officers will work along with each family
3. The implementation of protective culture technology
- Refurbishment of existing shade houses on private farms as well as the various propagation stations
- The construction of 10 shade houses
NB: The workplan and budget for the above mentioned will see an injection of just over EC$2.5 million
As we listen to the cries of our nutmeg and cocoa farmers as export markets disappeared before their very eyes and the associations inability to purchase farmers’ produce, as a concerned government, the cabinet approved EC$3 million support package for the GCNA to divided into EC$1 million grant and EC$2 million loan. As I said earlier the cabinet is in the process of approving a support package for the GCA.
It is very instructive to note that government has already exceeded the initial sum committed to at the time when the stimulus package was disclosed to this nation.
As we endure during this difficult period, there were officers of the ministry who risked their lives and of their families to make sure that the ministry was able to deliver services to the public. To the workers at the various propagation stations and their supervisors who worked tirelessly to make sure the propagation targets are met, the officers of the extension division, who ensured that operations of the farmers’ markets were successful, to the finance officers and other members of the Administration Department for ensuring salaries were processed and paid on time, officers of the Lands and Surveys Division, Vet and Livestock, Planning Unit, Land Use Division, Pest Management Unit, Produce Chemist Laboratory and PR Unit for their dedication during this difficult time. It will be remiss of me if I didn’t single out our drivers for their commitment and dedication in service.
With these words the pleasure is mine to launch the stimulus package for the agricultural sector.
Please be advised that as the ministry continues to embrace the challenges brought on by Covid-19, we see tremendous opportunities for building a more resilience sector, however, may I hasten to add that the success of this package depends on the support of everyone.
Let us commit to firstly feeding ourselves. And remember we all have a responsibility to ensure a safe nation for all. May God bless us all.