Saint Lucia
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Farmers To Get Relief Following Tropical Storm Bret

Alfred Prospere
Agricultural Minister, Alfred Prospere

AGRICULTURAL Minister Alfred Prospere has assured farmers that government will be providing some sort of relief to them following the passage of Tropical Storm Bret, however the minister says farmers should exercise patience. 

Earlier this month, a preliminary assessment revealed that at least 75% of the banana industry was severely damaged by Tropical Storm Bret; Prospere, not too long after, indicated that government would do its best to assist farmers.

 “I’m not in a position to say what exactly we’ll be giving, but government… will provide some support to farmers in the short term,” Prospere said.

“We have completed the collection of our data, a report has been submitted to the prime minister and we are in the process of identifying where possible the funds can be obtained,” he said in a recent interview.

According to the Agriculture Minister, “if possible—when we get that, we will be able to give some information to the farmers as to what kind of support that we will be giving… but I do believe that the government that I’m part of understands the pain and plight of farmers.”

Government will be providing farmers with fertilizer in the near future with no cost attached, Prospere said.  He also pointed out that government had approved a 30% subsidy for banana farmers (in light of the rising cost of production and productivity challenges faced by stakeholders in the banana sub-sector).

“We just received 4000 bags of fertilizer from Morocco. Every year Morocco makes that contribution (and) that fertilizer will be going to the farmers free of charge. Four weeks ago, we were able to secure funding in the tune of $400,000 approved by the Cabinet to provide fertilizer support. That is the third subsidy; we had one in September, one in January…. but this subsidy will be extended not just to banana farmers but also to plantain farmers,” he said. 

Prospere added that “we will be giving more than we gave in the previous subsidies where it used to be 25 kg bags of fertilizer (two per acre); now we are going to be giving the 50 kg bags, (two per acre).”

However, he said, government will be holding back on the distribution of the fertilizer as they believe farmers need some kind of income support. Ultimately, however, farmers will be better off, Prospere said.  

“We believe that farmers need some kind of income support to rehabilitate their fields… to get back into a position where they can prepare their plantation for the next four, five (or) six months.  We will wait until the government has decided what kind of support and from there we will determine when we will distribute the 400,000 bags of fertilizers as well as the third subsidy that was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.

I want to call on our farmers to be a little patient. We understand what they are going through so as soon as we get the information in terms of what level of support we will be providing, we’ll definitely inform them at the soonest.”

The minister also spoke about his recent trip to St. Vincent where he was able to discuss a number of pivotal issues.

Regional delegates gathered at the Beachcomber’s Hotel Conference Room on Friday, 14th July for the 22nd Eastern Caribbean Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries and Sustainable Use of Living Marine Resources.

According to the National Broadcasting Corporation, representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Japan, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) were all in attendance.

Said Prospere: “It (is) a meeting that is held every year to discuss issues like sustainable fisheries, the sargassum seaweed and its impact on livelihoods, the blue economy, (etc.) There (was an) opportunity for each minister to have a bilateral (meeting) with the Vice Minister of Japan and the first day we met and we discussed cooperation between Japan and Saint Lucia— what Japan was doing and how Japan was assisting us in terms of fisheries.” 

“At the bilateral (meeting) I did express our concerns considering that our fisheries facilities, most if not all, were donated by the Government of Japan. I stressed the need for rehabilitation and upgrade of those facilities because after those facilities were established there was no maintenance plan in place. Recently the Government of Taiwan contributed XCD 1.1 million so work has commenced on some of the fisheries facilities like Dennery,” Prosper said.