Saint Lucia
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Minister calls for ‘Agriculture Insurance’ for Farmers from the Sub-Region

Agriculture and Forestry Minister, Alfred Prospere
Agriculture and Forestry Minister, Alfred Prospere

On the heels of the ravages caused by Tropical Storm Bret to Saint Lucia’s agriculture sector, Minister for Agriculture Alfred Prospere says there is an urgent need for the implementation of an Agriculture Insurance scheme in the sub-region.

The minister said, had the farmers been protected under some level of insurance they would be entitled to some level of compensation in the aftermath of the storm.

However, he noted, such an initiative could be better pursued as a collective unit, not only for Saint Lucian farmers but  initially among farmers from the sub region to better manage the cost factors involved.

“Unfortunately, at this time they have to depend on government …and what is available, in terms of personal resources for them to continue their work,” declared Prospere.

He acknowledged the input of staffers from the Ministry of Agriculture “for being able to go out soon after the all-clear was given to collect the information …as it is a preliminary figure (assessment) and we will be continuing the work on the ground to get a more comprehensive detailed sort of information”.

Prospere disclosed that in the forestry department there were minor damages to trees “but the preliminary figures indicate that 50 acres of forest was also damaged as a result of the passage of the storm.”

He recalled the management of WINCROP, in earlier times.

“Anytime we had a natural disaster and it impacted the sector, Wincrop would be providing some level of assistance to farmers,” Prospere said.

However, the minister noted, in the late 90s Wincrop collapsed and they were unable to continue. “But currently, ministers for agriculture in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Grenada and The Republic of Dominica …have held discussions as to getting insurance coverage as the Windward Islands (collectively).”

Furthermore, he explained, it has been deduced that “if you have one country doing it country by country, the premiums would be so high that it would be very difficult for the farmers, and for the government to be able to pay.

“So, we are approaching it on a Windward Islands kind of level where all four countries will come together …and we are hoping that the premium will be a lot less than what it would be, given (in contrast to)  Saint Lucia as a country doing this on its own.”

Interestingly, the minister noted, the livestock sector was not too overly impacted. However, he said, there was a situation in Micoud where a chicken farmer lost approximately “1,400 chicks” that were about two weeks old.

Commenting on the issue of developing sustainable trading relations among farmers in the sub –region, Prospere said, this could be the most appropriate method to benefit farmers. For instance, he noted, Dominican farmers produce lots of dasheen, Saint Lucia produces bananas, while Grenada produces lots of cocoa, nutmeg and other spices.

“It would be very good for us to come together and integrate, in terms of moving our goods from country to country within the Caribbean,” added Prospere.

The minister noted that the regional territories have helped farmers sustain a livelihood and “had it not been for the region, maybe the banana industry in Saint Lucia would have collapsed”.

He said, in recent times, it has been difficult for the region’s farmers to export bananas to London, England.

“Lucky for us, the region has tremendous potential for our bananas and this is why …it is important for us to take advantage of that opportunity,” stated Prospere.  “There is demand for our commodities in Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) …and after a meeting with a buyer in Trinidad , he is willing to purchase all of our vegetables once it’s available, as well as our bananas and he has indicated that  he is going to get his boat to come here and get it.”

Prospere added: “There is a demand for our commodities in Saint Kitts/ Nevis …and so many places in the Caribbean that there is a demand for food and I feel it’s just an opportunity for us to tap into this and to ensure that our farmers can continue to make a profit out of agriculture.”