PRESS RELEASE – Supporting livelihoods and creating new revenue streams for rural farmers are the primary objectives of an ongoing programme for the privatization of Christmas Trees production and sales.
For over fifty years, the production and sale of natural Christmas tress has been the sole prerogative of the Forests and Lands Resources Development Department of the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology.
Assistant Chief Forestry Officer Mr Alfred Prosper says after review, the authorities thought it necessary to take a policy decision for the privatization of Christmas Tree production and sales.
“ A Strategic Business Plan for the Forestry Sector was commissioned in 2008, which analysed the cost of Christmas Trees production by the Department. The result of the analysis revealed that Christmas tress production was costing the Department a large sum of money so much so that a lot of our budget for any given Quarter was spent on Christmas tree production, we are of the view that the farmers who have quite a bit of experience in banana production would be more equipped to reduce the cost of Christmas tress production and the Department felt in an effort to support livelihoods and provide an additional revenue stream to farmers it was necessary to privatise the production of Christmas trees”.
In support of the privatisation programme, the Department of Forestry Department is working with five farmers in Soufriere, Dennery, Monchey and Marckey as as part of a pilot phase.
The Assistant Chief Forestry Officer says the selected farmers receive technical assistance and support including a quota of seedlings at no cost.
“In November 2011 the privatisation process began where we identified five farmers around the island to participate in a pilot phase for Christmas tree production , those farmer were assisted to identify an appropriate site and an assessment of that site was conducted. Christmas tree seedlings were produced outside the main Union Nursery. The farmers in the first year of the pilot phase will receive the seedlings at no cost and the Forestry Department will provide technical support to ensure that the trees are produced of the quality for marketing. We are hoping that at the end of 2014 the Forestry Department will completely phase of our Christmas tree production and ensure that private farmers can produce and meet public demand in the near future”.
Christmas trees continue to be an integral part of the festive tradition on Saint Lucia.