In keeping with his stated approach in representing farmers and fishers, Senator for Agriculture and Fisheries, Roderick St Clair, held a consultation with the Livestock and Poultry Farmers on 8 April 2021 in the Deluxe Cinema, Grenville, St Andrew.
Farmers from various parishes representing rabbit, poultry, small ruminants, cattle and pigs were present. Farmers highlighted the need for them to be working together and establishing a database so that farmers can stay in touch with each other and share information. The poultry farmers expressed concerns that their poultry association need to be revamped to provide much-needed services through its office.
There was a call for more significant support for livestock extension service from the Ministry of Agriculture, housing for small ruminants, fencing, and labour support through the Government’s Imani programme. The high cost of livestock feed, possible dumping of frozen chicken (importation priced below cost of production), were highlighted as key challenges affecting the local poultry industry. The status of talks between the Government and the local feed supplier was questioned, as farmers indicated that they had not heard any meaningful update from the Government on the matter.
Overall, farmers in attendance were not convinced that Government is serious about agriculture and providing the necessary support. They expressed that there is a lack of leadership and implementation in getting agriculture projects done. Farmers highlighted the challenges of praedial larceny and questioned the existence of the Praedial Larceny Fund, catered for in the Praedial Larceny Act from which farmers can receive timely compensation in cases of theft.
It was suggested that Government should provide the types of support needed to solve real problems that farmers have instead of wasting resources on what is not required. Livestock farmers echoed the view that with the proper strategy and support from Government, farmers can grow to the capacity needed to reduce imports. Training in record keeping was also cited as a key skill that farmers were interested in acquiring to manage their business.
The livestock farmers expressed their desire to improve their livestock breeds and Dr Kimond Cummings, the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture informed them that this issue is on Government’s agenda. In response to farmers’ frustrations of losses due to dog predation, Dr Cummings recommended that they take photos of the damage if possible and report the incident to the Ministry of Agriculture immediately, which will help assess the damage for compensation.
The issue of livestock owners allowing their animals to roam or tying them on other people’s lands often results in crop damage and confrontations amongst farmers. Lack of adequate housing and fencing were cited as possible root causes.
The forum held under the theme, “Your Opinion Matters”, provided an opportunity for the Senator to interact with his constituents and hear firsthand of the challenges, aspirations and recommendations for improving agri-enterprise. The farmers all agreed that they must form themselves into a solid cohesive organisation and not operate individually. In this regard, the Senator has been working with the poultry association to have it revamped and will meet with the St Patrick’s Goat Farmers Association towards this end.
The Senator informed the meeting that a report will be produced and shared with the Minister for Agriculture. He also expressed his deep appreciation to all farmers who attended and others who called to provide their support, the Management of the Deluxe Cinema, the media (MTV and GIS), and all volunteers who assisted in staging this event.