(GIS) – Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Cooperatives, Hon. Ezekiel Joseph, has expressed great optimism for the local agricultural sector in the new year.
Reviewing the performance of the local agricultural sector for 2017, Mr. Joseph said while there were many accomplishments, the sector had its fair share of surmountable challenges as well.
The Minister for Agriculture spoke on the many strides which were made with regard to the increased levels of production and direct employment in the sector. This he added, resulted in an improvement in economic and social wellbeing, particularly in the rural communities.
“There is need to increase exports to our traditional markets, and to explore potential new market opportunities,” he said. “Therefore, in 2018, we shall see the operationalization of a new marketing entity with the focus on providing critical support needed to increase production of targeted crops; and more importantly, provide the marketing intelligence, infrastructure, and arrangements for the sale of these crops locally, regionally and internationally. The new entity will also provide insurance, a pension scheme, and incentives to all farmers and fisher folk who wish to become shareholders of this entity.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Agriculture said his ministry is in the process of finalizing and designing the costing of the major agricultural roads, with the intention to commence rehabilitation in this financial year.
“We shall continue to support farmers in the banana sub-sector, and with the help of friendly governments introduce new technology in the fisheries sub-sector and other sub-sectors in agriculture,” he said, also expressing gratitude to the government and people of the Republic of China (Taiwan), the governments of Mexico, Cuba and Morocco, and the organizations IICA, FAO, CARDI, and the EU.
Reducing the country’s food import bill is a major area of concern for the Government of Saint Lucia, and will be addressed in the new year.