Speaking at a recent simple but important ceremony for the handover of a piece of agricultural equipment, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Timothy Harris, opined that with a food import bill in excess of 100 million EC dollars, we must recognise the unwavering commitment and dedication of our fishers and farmers who continue to produce local food of superior quality to what is imported from countries with greater resources and available technologies.
They do this, said Harris, in spite of the many challenges that confront both crop and livestock subsectors; the monkeys, the wild pigs, the tropical bont tick, the high cost of inputs and so on.
But Harris also made the case that there is however another group of agricultural producers who are often overlooked, but who are equally important. These are the agro-processors.
“Consider if you will, that if you go into any supermarket in the Federation, there will be a juice and drinks aisle; with the Tropicana and Famosa and Valrico fruit juices; the apple and cherry and cranberry; the orange and passion fruit and mango, pomegranate and guava. There are also the V8 vegetable juices with carrot and broccoli etc. We grow passion fruit and mango and guava and many other fruits. We grow carrots and broccoli and tomatoes. There is a tremendous opportunity for our local agro-processors to take a larger share of this ready market. We should be seeing Kittitian Pride instead of Libby’s and Del Monte,” said the Minister.
The Agriculture Minister indicated that when we usually speak of reducing food imports we immediately consider the necessity to produce greater quantities of the fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and fish that are consumed locally. And there are other areas of opportunity as well, stated Harris.
He said that this is why the donation of the equipment, a hammer mill electrical grater and press, is such an important gesture and contribution to local food production efforts.
The equipment was handed over to the St. Kitts Agro-processors Cooperative Society and is the second item of equipment secured for processing of the more starchy vegetables such as cassava, and breadfruit. It was also disclosed that a grater was previously purchased, “So that we are no longer compelled to buying the corn chips and Cheetos. There are local alternatives, Sheila Harris’s cassava biscuits and Arabella Nisbett’s and Catherine Pemberton’s cassava bread can become the snacks of choice. The hammer mill will also be able to grind the material into fine flour that can be used in to make nutritious and delicious cakes, bread and pastries. Instead of buying white bread we can buy bread made from our own cassava or breadfruit flour,” suggested Minister Harris.
He said, even though it may appear simple, this investment (the equipment), can significantly contribute to improving the food and nutrition security of the country.
It represents the result of a collaborative effort between the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, through its Department of Agriculture and its Department of Cooperatives, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Government of Australia through the Australian High Commission; all acting together in support of the development of the agro-processing subsector on St Kitts, stated Harris.
He encouraged the St. Kitts Agro-processors Co-op to make good use of the equipment and to continue to seek ways to diversify and improve their product base.