St Kitts and Nevis: Government invested $15 million for agriculture revival

While the production of sugar on a commercial basis in 2005 in St. Kitts has been stopped from offering greater opportunities for expansion in non-sugar agriculture

St Kitts and Nevis: While the production of sugar on a commercial basis in 2005 in St. Kitts has been stopped from offering greater opportunities for expansion in non-sugar agriculture, said Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris and pointed out that the Covid-19 experience reinforced the realization that the country needs it to produce more of what people consume.

“Agriculture has experienced a resurgent revival over the past few years,” Prime Minister Harris said. “The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic reminded us of the vital need to feed ourselves.”

Prime Minister made the remarks on Tuesday, April 20, when he appeared with four other panellists on his special show Leadership Matters, where the topic of ‘agriculture and food security was discussed. Which he said was one of the most important considerations was for the country at this time.

Panellists with Prime Minister Harris on leadership issues were permanent secretaries in the Ministry of Agriculture et al. Ron Collins, Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Tracy Challenger-Clarke; Technical specialist, SKN IICA delegation Sharon Jones; and a longtime farmer Winston Morris.

According to the Prime Minister, the Covid-19 experience reinforced the realization that the country needs to produce more of what it consumes. Taking note of the fear of the people, the government responded by systematically protecting the population from the supply chain, which is adversely affected by ensuring that it systematically diversifies food markets, including poultry, meat and fish. At the same time, it worked aggressively to almost self-sufficiency in those staples.

“That’s why my government, as part of the stimulus package, has allocated ten million dollars to promote agriculture and agricultural production,” Dr Harris said. “Based on the commitment made to expand our agricultural base, we have allocated $5 million in our 2021 budget to continue the agricultural sector incentive program.”

The concessions made by the Team Unity Administration to the sector are bearing fruit as there has been an increase in production and interest in crops, livestock, poultry and fisheries. He pointed out that fish production increased by 3.6 per cent in 2020 after an 83 per cent decrease in production in April 2020, which was a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying curfew and downtime, which brought the fishery to a standstill.

“Over the past nearly six years, my administration has given a lot, and it will further increase its support to the sector,” Dr Harris said. “The 2021 allocation of just over ten million dollars plus another five million for the stimulus program is indeed the largest budget allocation in the sector in a very long time.”

Prime Minister Harris said he understood the vital importance of the sector to the country and the economy and also the challenges. He noted that he appreciates the great potential of the agricultural sector to contribute to the country’s sustainable growth and development.

However, he pointed out that there must be a focused goal and a coherent strategy to achieve it. In this way, the country can produce more and better quality products for the population to consume domestically and for export. He added that better quality food leads to improvement in the health condition of people, which in turn should mean lower health care costs, as the health of the population is critical to the prosperity of the country.

According to Dr Harris, farmers can create more jobs within the sector, prosperity for the people and a source of foreign exchange for the country.

“Before concluding, I must encourage all farmers and fishermen to be vaccinated again,” Prime Minister said. “Do this to limit the risks of contracting Covid-19 or transferring Covid-19 to anyone. Do it for yourself, do it for your families, and be very important to put our country on a sustained path to recovery. Do this to achieve our herd immunity target, which in turn will lead to more business opportunities at our hotels and other businesses.”