by Curlan Campbell
- St Vincent largest exporter of livestock in OECS
- Price increases for meat protein are foreseen due to eruption of La Soufrière volcano
- Volcanic eruption devastated St Vincent’s agriculture industry
- Grenada needs to advance the whole issue of food security
Price increases for meat protein are foreseen for Grenada and other territories dependent on bilateral agri-export agreements with St Vincent and the Grenadines, due to last week’s eruption of La Soufrière volcano.
The eruption displaced roughly one-fifth of the population, some 20,000 people, and devastated the island’s agriculture industry. This will ultimately affect the cattle export sector, which is a potential multi-million dollar industry for the island.
Various Caribbean territories and charity organisations have mobilised to provide financial aid and assistance to the people of St Vincent. Grenada has pledged EC$1 million but there is a concern that the devastation will have implications for food security going forward, for St Vincent and for other islands dependent on imports of cattle and pigs from St Vincent.
Farmer’s representative Senator Roderick St Clair was quite sympathetic to the plight of the entire population, particularly the farmers in St Vincent who are dependent on cattle export to earn a livelihood. He said the situation will create a deficit in the beef and pork supply on the local Grenada market, which will impact pricing. This will ultimately affect businesses in the foodservice industry and butchers at the abattoirs.
“I have read a report that says that the entire agriculture sector in St Vincent was devastated so to have that recovered can be a very challenging undertaking. So, it means how long are we prepared to sit back and wait to get that next cattle or goat and sheep out of St Vincent? I think that is the question and the truth of the matter is that we shouldn’t because as a country we should be stepping up,” said St Clair.
St Clair believes that while we assist the people of St Vincent, as a nation we should look to advance the whole issue of food security. He indicated a high level of investment both technical and financial is needed to safeguard ourselves in the event of a natural disaster and, if done correctly where surpluses can be achieved, then export can be a lucrative opportunity.
He said discussions have already started in that regard and he hopes this can manifest shortly. “I have had meetings with the Minister and his technical team to look at our whole response plan not only for livestock, but also for crop production and how do we secure ourselves and how do we look for opportunities to satisfy unfilled markets that would arise. So, this should serve as a lesson that we should always be prepared.”
According to statistics provided by Chief Livestock and Veterinary Officer within the Ministry of Agriculture Dr Kimond Cummings, Grenada imported 107 cattle which equated to 69,000 pounds of beef, and 42 pigs equating to roughly 7,000 pounds of pork in 2020. Grenada’s total consumption of beef in 2019 was 147,542 pounds according to pre-Covid statistics.
Dr Cummings said while he doesn’t foresee a shortfall in the availability of protein on the island, there may be an increase in the price for proteins available at our local meat markets. This he said would mean that Grenada must now look internally to fill that deficit that comes with its own set of challenges. “With the market in St Vincent and the Grenadines being cut off it means we will see just around quarter to half meat supply being cut off, so it, therefore, means now that we would have to look internally to fill that deficit because locally we have been doing a really good job in supply meats, but it’s just that the availability and pricing is still an issue. So if we have to search harder internally it means that there will be an increase in price obviously.”
St Vincent and the Grenadines is said to be the largest exporter of livestock in the OECS.