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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Agricultural revolution underway in the OECS

The Agriculture Sector in OECS Member States is on the brink of a new era in collaborative production for regional and international trade. A comprehensive grouping of regional agriculture stakeholders, which include Ministers, Manufacturers, Traders, representatives from the Bureau of Standards and the OECS Commission, are working together to ensure the success of the initiative. The virtual OECS Agri-Export Working group began in June of 2016 and, only one year later, has seen many achievements due to the influence and reach of the agricultural stakeholders involved, paired with the technological nature of the ongoing online meeting, which facilitates speedy action and decision making. Main achievements of the Agri-Export Initiative to date include:* three refrigerated boats traversing the OECS and the wider Caribbean with agricultural produce and livestock; improvement of phytosanitary standards; change in production packaging from bags to boxes; forging new purchasing links with Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, the United States and Canada; joint production to fulfill shipment quotas for international trade; development of an app to connect producers, traders, supermarkets and hotels virtually; identification of high value crops for each Member State with a view to increase production in these areas for regional and international trade; and * identification of designated Agriculture point persons in each OECS Member State to ensure quick implementation of projects and timely feedback. Regional trade has been greatly facilitated with the service of the MV Sea Rambler, the MVC American Liberty and the Iron Cat, which export a range of fruits and vegetables from as far north as the British Virgin Islands to as far south as Trinidad and Tobago. Minister for Agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hon. Saboto Caesar, said that while regional trade is a priority as the OECS strives to lower its food import bill, it is also important that Member States aim to be self sufficient. “At all costs, we should try not to import goods which can be produced on the island – whether from the OECS or extra regionally.” “National agricultural platforms need to step up and produce more. We should aim for self sufficiency and collaborate to consolidate exports for extra regional trade,” Minister Caesar said.

Source: St. Lucia News online