(St. Lucia News Online) — In light of the negative impact on the world economies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of food production has received razor-sharp focus — probably more than ever in recent times. Many countries are focusing their attention on boosting local food production and to reduce their gigantic import bills to cushion the economic fallout.
Saint Lucia has taken a similar step, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet announced Wednesday in his COVID-19 Social Stabilization Programme for April-June 2020.
“In light of the difficulties experienced by Winfresh, today, the government injected one million dollars into National Farmers Trading Organization (NFTO) on behalf of Winfresh with another payment of one million to follow soon,” he said.
The prime minister told the nation that government will “provide direct support to local indigenous farmers to support increased productivity and inputs to supply the local and regional markets”.
“We will be developing a strong “Buy Local Campaign” to reduce our importation bill, facilitate diversification, spur investment in local enterprises, foster greater consumption and assist in generating some level of employment,” he said.
Fishers will not be left out. Chastanet said the government will “provide targeted support to farmers and fishermen adversely affected through the purchase of products from farmers and fishers”.
With the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season looming, the prime minister is encouraging fishermen to participate in the COAST insurance facility.
Meanwhile, the National Workers Union (NWU) said in a news release Thursday that it stands “in full solidarity” with Chastanet and his government “for the decision taken to implement a financial and economic assistance package to workers and farmers who were hard hit as a result of COVID-19”.
“The National Workers Union (NWU) is of the opinion that the decision is well-intentioned and demonstrates the government’s determination to mobilize the country in its efforts to fight the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The NWU calls on all Saint Lucians to wake up to the challenges posed by this global crisis,” the release stated.