(PRESS RELEASE) — In a move to forge a closer relationship with the community and consumers at large, agriculture leaders in partnership with the Taiwanese Embassy have initiated a series of events that will serve to build interest in locally-produced foods, the people who grow them and the needs of the consumers.
This forms part of the import substitution project which focuses efforts on increased production of seven crops that will assist the Ministry of Agriculture’s strategy to reduce the national food import bill.
The farmers market, embracing the ministry’s theme of “Eat Fresh; Saint Lucia’s Best” is a strategic move to meet the general population at their point of need: apprising consumers of the latest developments within the agri-food sector, farming trends and food safety, providing an outlet where farmers get the opportunity to showcase their produce and encouraging the consumption of local crops.
National Coordinator of Fruit and Vegetable Import Substitution Project, Adline Eudovic, said the focus is on generating interest on the seven targeted crops: pineapples, cabbages, sweet peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, watermelons, and cantaloupe and honeydew melons.
“These are crops that farmers have been producing for a long time in Saint Lucia, and farmers have the technical savvy on the production of those crops. They have been deemed important and traditional, and farmers have the ability to produce them. However, we do have challenges: we do not have a consistent supply at times of the year because of our open-field agriculture concept and the production (style) used by the farmers. Unfortunately, this coincides with the tourist season when the demand is at its highest. So, through this project, we will introduce new technology that will allow the farmers to produce year-round.”
Last week, a farmer’s market held in Roseau was the project’s third hosting. Ms Eudovic said the initiative is gaining momentum.
“Our aim is to have one farmer’s market per month. But, in looking at the current trends, some places where we have already hosted a farmers’ market, like Micoud, are already requesting that another event be held. The initiative has so far been successful and farmers on their own have decided to have their own farmers’ market. That is a very good indicator that the farmers’ market concept is working.”
Saint Lucia has eight agricultural regions. Ms Eudovic said the strategy is to hold at least one event in each region, thereby increasing the chances of interaction between the community and farmers, and the penetration of messages on the socio-economic benefits of buying and consuming locally grown foods.
“We have had many engagements with our stakeholders, we have had trainings with the extension officers because they are a vital part of the executing arm of this project, we have had engagements with the different ministries for information gathering, meetings with chefs and purchasers, and we are currently hosting a farmers’ training program where 100 farmers are being trained islandwide in new technologies.”
The agriculture ministry continues to interface with its stakeholders on improved, sustainable actions to encourage farming livelihoods as a means for growing the subsector.