Dr. Douglas said “The importance of achieving this goal is reinforced by the growing uncertainty in the global food market, which is characterized by successive episodes of natural disasters in the food producing regions of the world; increasing demands from expanding economies; increased use of biofuel technology and the associated upward pressure on prices.”
Dr. Douglas outlined that it was just in October 2011, a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that thirty-two (32) countries around the world will be in need of assistance, as a result of crop failures, natural disasters and high domestic food prices. “However, I can confidently say to this Honourable House that we will not be among the countries in need of such assistance,” Dr. Douglas said.
“Since the closure of the Sugar Industry in 2005, my Government has made agriculture a priority in the development agenda, by identifying the sector as one of the pillars of transformation, which would not only ensure food security, but also facilitate employment and revenue generation. Considerable investment has been made to facilitate the expansion of the sector, through increased integration of new farming techniques and technologies and the creation of linkages with other sectors in order to reduce cost and maximize benefits. During 2012 we intend to build on these efforts by emphasizing small and commercial scale farming, infrastructure, appropriate technology and training,” Douglas added.
He continued, “Small-scale and commercial farming have both been used as a means of expanding the sector as we strive to meet domestic demand and capitalize on export opportunities. During 2010, three (3) farmers were identified for the establishment of commercial farms which involve the cultivation of fifty (50) acres each. We have also encouraged group-farming or the cluster farm model which was initiated under the Agricultural Training Employment Programme. This programme targets former sugar workers who are interested in making a transition from the Sugar Industry to non-sugar agriculture. I am pleased to report that this initiative has been successful, facilitating the establishment of four group farms in the areas of Sir Gilles, Belmont, West Farm and Mansion. We are also focusing on supporting the development of niche markets in the agro-processing sub-sector as this area provides a unique opportunity to develop an additional form of income generation, particularly for women, a means of reducing wastage and a building block for small business development. The Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) has collaborated with the Department of Cooperatives to provide training, equipment and product development support in this area. Further capacity building will be sought in order to facilitate quality assurance and sustainability.”
Prime Minister Douglas also said the livestock sub-sector is facing challenges such as praedial larceny, high mortality, the high cost of feed and poor husbandry practices. These problems resulted in a 3.8% decline in output in 2010. Several initiatives have been implemented and will continue into 2012 to reverse this outcome. They include the growing, harvesting and storage of forage for use during the dry season as part of a strategy to deal with the cost of imported feed which has caused some livestock farmers to cease production as profit margins continued to narrow.