Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 08, 2016 (SKNIS): Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, noted in his New Year’s Day address that the agriculture sector is critical to the Federation’s development and in that light the ministry has decided to unveil a number of initiatives for 2016.
One such initiative is the debt forgiveness of farmers for rent owed over the years as stated by Alistair Edwards, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We thought it best to let bygones be bygones, forgive the debt, ask them to come in and reregister,” said Edwards, adding that only if persons are registered or reregistered will they be entitled to certain benefits offered by the ministry. “At the end of the day we want the land to be more productive, as we have a lot of areas where we can capitalize in the local market.”
He noted that the number of farmers who are not registered exceeds the expected number.
“A number of farmers are not registered, in the sense that we have a lot of people who are squatting,” he said. “Persons who are being legitimate in getting lands are not using it and we do not want a situation where people have lands for having land’s sake.”
The permanent secretary appealed to persons to utilize the lands as they were given to them to use productively in agriculture. He also encouraged them to adopt the Latin term “quid pro quo” (something for something).
“We are saying to you, if you are on the lands for six or nine months, or two or three years and you are not doing anything, it is land in an agricultural zone, (and) you should give it up to allow someone else to work the land as opposed to having grass grow in it,” said the permanent secretary. “The Government is willing to give a lot of assistance to the farmers and I feel it is only fair for the farmers to give back if only in one way.”
He stated that if persons are serious about farming and are desirous of obtaining a loan, it is incumbent on them to ensure that everything is in order.
P.S Edwards noted that the time frame for the debt forgiveness project is until the end of 2016.
Other projects to be undertaken by the ministry will include but are not limited to the upgrade of the Basseterre Public Market, the reduction of the monkey population, the introduction of aquaculture to famers and communities at large, as well as the full implementation of marine
management areas. The ministry will also get assistance from Japan under the Japan Equipment Project in the form of surveillance of common fishing areas and the donation of fishing vessels for training.