Roseau, Dominica: Prime Minister Dr Roosevelt Skerrit, in his 2022/23 budget address, outlined significant plans for the agriculture sector. Announcing $55.0 million ($8.2 million under recurrent expenditure and $46.8 under Capital) investment for the agriculture sector for this fiscal Year, PM Skerrit stated that the budget represents an increase of $15.5 million over the last Fiscal Year.
He highlighted that the investments would be targeted to respond to the new and emerging global challenges as well as opportunities to increase market share locally, regional, and internationally.
PM Skerrit asserted that the main focus is on ensuring that the country can increase productivity and production while at the same time generating individual and national wealth.
Prime Minister Skerrit stressed that they aimed to increase agriculture’s contribution to GDP to 700 million by 2030 while outlining the agriculture 2030 that will be focused on the following:
A. Increase in Production of (i) Agricultural produce, (ii)Livestock, (iii) Horticulture, and (iv) Fishing to eliminate the need for importation and to increase our exports.
B. Enhance the Nature Island Brand and Expand Market Share locally, regionally, and internationally.
C. Increase Agro-processing output to add value to our agricultural produce.
This Budget is a demonstration of the efforts to establish a wide range of programmes and projects throughout the value chain to achieve the goals.
On increased Production in Fruits and Vegetables, Prime Minister stated that by expanding cultivation areas, scaling up production through innovation and technology, encouraging new entrants into the markets, adopting requisite technology and the introduction of new varieties, Dominica will be in a better place to produce consistently higher yields, volumes and quality.
Government has made the policy decision to ensure that our non-traditional fruit and vegetable subsector is an integral part of Dominica’s food system and to facilitate the transformative role that the agriculture sector will play in the economy.
Produce such as bell peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower are gaining popularity among local consumers, and fruits such as cantaloupes, dragon fruit, strawberries and blueberries can complement the local supply of watermelons and passionfruit.
Tied to the global movement of an appeal for healthier foods, tropical and exotic fruits continue to appeal to local and foreign consumers, creating a strong position for Dominica to advance its agriculture sector.
In Fiscal Year 2022/2023, Government will invest an initial $1,000,000 in the provision of greenhouses, saran netting locally (also referred to as cover material), insect netting, equipment, irrigation systems, and other necessities to ensure that fresh vegetables and fruits will be available and affordable year-round – this is fundamental if we are to reduce our food import bill and achieve food security.
Government will also continue its propagation programme to ensure a minimum of 600,000 seedlings are propagated and distributed to farmers at a subsidized price, as an incentive for production.
” Our propagation capabilities will be complemented by the increased capacity from the Agriculture Science Complex Building at One Mile, which is being constructed to the tune of $13 million with grant funding from the People’s Republic of China,” said the prime minister.
It includes a 34 379 square metre tissue culture facility that will also afford us the ability to propagate more weather and pest- and disease-resistant plants. In addition, it will allow for genetic testing of plants and the opportunity to introduce new propagation techniques.
Further, PM Skerrit announced significant plans for banana farmers and noted, “The consumption of bananas is a good source of vitamins and minerals that can help lower blood pressure and contribute to the health of one’s heart. Several farmers continue to produce bananas with the support of this Government, especially with inputs and to combat the spread of black sigatoka.”
Increased and targeted investments in bananas will take Dominica a step closer to satisfying the growing local demand for exports. A special fund in the amount of $1.0 million will be established to support large banana farmers. A fixed number of banana farmers will be targeted based on their historical performance and growth potential.
He said,” Agriculture is one of the most important sectors for the creation of employment, food security, sustaining rural livelihoods, and generating foreign exchange. This Government therefore continues to invest heavily to transform this sector through the implementation of deliberate and sustainable programmes and projects, to support livelihoods and increase the sectors resilience and overall contribution to GDP.”
PM Skerrit highlighted some of our major achievements over the last Year:-
- 1,573 acres of root crops, banana, plantain and vegetables were established
- 107.3 acres of Tree Crops including cocoa, avocadoes and citrus were established
- $817,000 was spent to manage the spread of the Black Sigatoka Disease;
- 400 farmers benefitted from cash grants in the sum of $500,000
- Farmers received over 300,000 high-quality vegetable seedlings and 6,472 fruit tree seedlings propagated by the Chinese Technical mission
- $7.1 million was spent on agricultural tools, fertilisers and inputs to farmers
- Building materials values at $1.0 million were provided to livestock farmers