Dominica: PM Skerrit outlines major plans for agriculture sector for 2022/23 fiscal year

Prime Minister Dr Roosevelt Skerrit outlined major plans for various fields in the agriculture sector for the 2022/23 fiscal year. 

Dominica: PM Skerrit outlines major plans for agriculture sector for 2022/23 fiscal year
Dominica: PM Skerrit outlines major plans for agriculture sector for 2022/23 fiscal year

Roseau, Dominica: Prime Minister Dr Roosevelt Skerrit outlined major plans for various fields in the agriculture sector for the 2022/23 fiscal year. 

  • Expansion of the livestock sector

He said that the Government developed a livestock expansion plan to take into account the concerns of the farmers on the rising cost of animal feed and chicks, triggered by recent global events. 

“We have the in-country capacity, infrastructure, and systems to increase our local production of chicks, to meet the demand for locally produced chicken and eliminate the need for imports,” said the prime minister. 

To take full advantage of the poultry market, they must continue to build capacity in local production. To this end, Government will invest in an initial ten poultry farmers to increase their capacity to 10,000 chicks.

The intention is to enable local farmers to be able to fully supply the local market with whole chicken, thereby negating the need for imports. In addition to this investment, Government will also consider a licensing regime for whole chicken imported into Dominica. 

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced that this Fiscal Year, the Government would rehabilitate the National Abattoir at the cost of $3.8 million to improve its operations and output.

He asserted, “We have already begun restructuring the operations of the National Abattoir to accommodate the increased capacity. Our enhancement plan will include provisions for special processing and cuts, packaging and branding of chicken and meats. We have 35 already begun work on the enhancement of our payment system to ensure that payments to local suppliers to the abattoir are made more efficiently.” 

Part of the livestock expansion effort also entails the development of a pasture, and forage banks of locally available plant species, undertaking the necessary research and development to formulate animal feed using local materials, as well as subsidize local hatcheries for a specific period of time till they are able to produce quantities and quality of chicks necessary to sustain local production and possible export. 

Government will invest $345,000 to begin exploration of those activities.

  •  Procurement of Agricultural produce

PM Skerrit said that once farmers are assured of a reliable market at a reasonable price, they will produce. In the efforts to incentivize farmers to increase production, this Fiscal Year, the Government will make available an additional $5.0 million to DEXIA as a revolving fund for the procurement of agricultural produce. 

DEXIA, through the Multi-Purpose Packhouses, will become the organized buyer armed with the responsibility for logistics and packaging solutions to enhance our market needs of quality, price and consistency. These funds will enable DEXIA to expand its role as the main facilitator in the market and to channel Dominica’s agricultural produce within our domestic and foreign markets.

 In order to equip farmers to take advantage of this opportunity, the Government will provide $3.7 million to strengthen at least five (5) new farmer producer organizations and crop production clusters to improve economies of scale. This measure ensures that producers can increase food production and are assured income by having stable buyers for their fresh produce. 

  • Greater participation of Youth in Agriculture 

PM Skerrit stressed that Dominica’s youth, and in particular, young professionals with qualifications in agriculture and related fields, are viewed as a respected resource for the modernization and advancement of agriculture in Dominica. 

They bring their technological competencies to complement the traditional farmer base that will help devise concrete solutions to the many challenges which confront the growth and true potential of the sector. 

Government is determined to 36 leverage the talents and skills of our youth as a game changer for agriculture in Dominica. “We are aware that there are several influencing factors which affect their participation in agriculture including their farming experience, access to credit, and land access, among others.” 

 In Fiscal Year 2022/23, Government has earmarked $1.0 million to support young people with the drive and passion to farm, and form alliances to set up on a farm for the first time or to modernize and expand their current farm facilities. 

This support will include grants for start-up capital, labour and supplies to eligible young people. Through these investments, young Dominicans will be able to enhance their participation in Dominica’s agriculture sector, boosting overall productivity and increasing individual and household incomes. 

  • Climate SMART Agriculture 

“We have developed an agriculture policy framework that is in keeping with the Government’s commitment to become the World’s First Climate Resilient Nation. It outlines a vision for a resilient and sustainable agricultural sector which promotes innovation and technology in order to guarantee increased yields, quality, consistency of production, safe and nutritious fresh produce,” PM Skerrit underlined. 

During this Fiscal Year, at least fifty (50) farmers who are already in active production, will benefit from a greenhouse introduction and repair programme, and 40 acres of cultivated farms will benefit from farm irrigation units. 

In this Fiscal Year irrigation systems will be installed in the farming communities of Calibishie and Salisbury. The estimated cost of these two systems is EC$486,000. 

  • Access to Agricultural lands 

He noted that they will also identify and build a register of vacant agricultural lands that can be put back into production. They will encourage the leasing or sale of these 37 lands either directly to the Government, or to private individuals. 

The Government anticipate that by next year, they will have in place a system to make these lands available to interested farmers. 

  • Reform of Extension Services 

As the agricultural sector develops and becomes increasingly commercialized, technology transfer and advisory services will need to be strengthened and specialized. This is particularly relevant within the context of the plans to transition towards greater use of innovative and technology-driven extension services. 

“Our goal is to shift the focus of extension services to a demand-driven service supported by a series of demonstration farms owned by the Government, and private farmers. This will allow farmers and new entrants into agriculture to be introduced to new farming techniques, varieties, and the use of technology,” cited PM Skerrit.