(MENAFN- Caribbean News Global)
CASTRIES, St Lucia – Saint Lucia's agricultural sector will improve exponentially over the next five years [January 1, 2022 – December 31, 2026] following the signing of a major agreement between the governments of Saint Lucia and Republic of China (Taiwan) on Friday, January 7, 2022, said the government of Saint Lucia Information Service (GIS) January 20, 2022.
“Alfred Prospere, minister for agriculture, fisheries, food security and rural development, and Taiwan's ambassador to Saint Lucia, H.E. Peter Chen, signed the agreement, which runs from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2026,” said the GIS report.“During a brief ceremony held in the Conference Room of the ministry of agriculture, fisheries, food security and rural development, the“Enhancing the Efficiency of Production – Distribution Supply Chain in Fruit and Vegetable Sector in Saint Lucia ( Second Term )” was signed, paving the way for a more efficient and diversified agricultural sector.”
The GIS report noted that the second term follows a three-year term which ended in November 2021, for which the main objective was to reduce Saint Lucia's food import bill by 30 percent during that period. The programme sees Taiwan leveraging agricultural technology to strengthen Saint Lucia's agricultural production, improve farmers' income, and build up the resilience of the agricultural sector to mitigate the effects of climate change. Noting that the agricultural sector forms a very crucial part of a country's overall food security plan, ambassador Chen said Taiwan was pleased to partner with the government of Saint Lucia to implement this agricultural project that seeks to strengthen Saint Lucia's agricultural capacity.
“As our world continues to confront worsening climate emergencies – such as severe storms, hurricanes and extreme weather – food security has come under serious threat,” said ambassador Chen.“In that regard, the Taiwan Technical Mission will continue to provide assistance, including promoting diversified production, establish a high efficiency production model, and strengthen the sales and marketing mechanism for local agricultural products.”
Ambassador Chen commended the efforts and passion of minister for external affairs, Alva Baptiste, and Alfred Prospere, for making the continuation of the programme possible. Taiwan's commitment to deepening the friendship between Saint Lucia and Taiwan, he said, remains unwavering.
“I would also like to reiterate that Taiwan will continue to work with the government of Saint Lucia, and to work with the ministry of agriculture, to support the growth and development of Saint Lucia's agricultural sector and enhancing the betterment of our two peoples. We trust that today's signing continues to build on the progress made to date,” said ambassador Chen.
Minister Prospere thanked the Taiwan Technical Mission for funding that will cover the second term of the project, noting that the funds will help to alleviate the plight of local farmers, ensure food security and promote diversification.
“Food security has always been a serious concern to me as a minister,” said Prospere.“Even when I sit in cabinet on Mondays, I'm being pressured by other cabinet ministers that we really need to take this food security issue very seriously.” He added:“We have seen the trend that the banana industry is taking and we are not sure if the banana industry will remain with us for too long, especially the UK market . There's an urgent need for us as a ministry to look at a strategy to encourage more of the banana farmers to get into diversification.”
Minister Prospere said that while the first term of the project was successful, the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to achieve the set targets. However, he said many farmers have expressed their appreciation for the project, adding that the second phase is very timely, as many farmers are facing financial hardships.
“Since July last year, our farmers have not been exporting bananas to the markets and they are struggling with regards to farm inputs and incentives for the whole agricultural sector,” he stated.“I'm confident that this five-year period of the project will really help to incentivize the farming sector in Saint Lucia. I'm looking forward to seeing this project engage as many farmers as possible.”
While farmers should be encouraged to stay within the sector, minister Prospere said they also need to know that there are reliable markets available to sell their produce. He added that more young people need to get into the agricultural sector and that introducing new means of technology to the sector is essential in reducing the food import bill.
“It is very important that we focus on reducing our food import bill because I'm really concerned that we are importing a number of commodities that I believe we can produce sufficiently in Saint Lucia,” said Prospere.“I'm hoping that this phase of the project can focus more on those commodities.”
Meanwhile, Barrymore Felicien, permanent secretary in the ministry of agriculture, fisheries, food security and rural development, said it had been almost two decades since an agricultural technical cooperation agreement between the governments of Saint Lucia and Taiwan was established.
Felicien noted that many people and livelihoods depend on agriculture. Fortunately, the COVID-19 has resulted in more people getting involved the agricultural sector. This revived prominence in agriculture, he said, has led to the ministry wanting to do more under the Seven Crops Project .
“The Project, from its inception, and over the last three years, has seen good planting materials being given, as well as subsidies, transfer of technology, and technical infrastructure being put down. […] All of this would not have been possible without the good relations between the governments of Saint Lucia and Taiwan, based on friendship, mutual understanding and trust between the parties, and, of course, the cultural exchange between the staff of the Taiwan Technical Mission and the Department of Agriculture,” Felicien explained.
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