BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, APRIL 17TH 2013 (CUOPM) – The Capisterre Farm has the capacity to create employment and the potential to provide an avenue to improve the approach to training in agriculture science, farming techniques and farm management.
The St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister said food security and the nutritional intake of the people remains a priority as government confronts the threat of an escalation in global food prices and increases in chronic non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
He said commercial farms have been identified as critical to increasing food production and security in the Agriculture Sector and in support of these efforts, work intensified at the Capisterre Farm in 2012 in an attempt to increase production of fresh vegetables.
“The objective is to increase the supply of selective crops to a point where consumers can benefit from reduced prices of vegetables on the local market. Capisterre Farm is on the right path to achieving this objective as a number of milestones have been achieved to date, including the establishment of an orchard and Shade House, the cultivation of twenty-two (22) acres for both tree and vegetable crops and the sale of approximately 7,000 kg of vegetables and root crops,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
“It has already provided exposure to fourteen (14) former sugar workers to the business of non-sugar agriculture and it is anticipated that more employment and training opportunities will become available as output expands. The technical staff at the Department of Agriculture has been working with farmers to find solutions to protect certain crops from severe weather and pests,” said Prime Minister.
He said funding through the Agriculture Resource Management Project was used to procure seven (7) screen houses which provide environmental modification and protection from severe weather and pests during the cultivation process.
“Once these methods are successfully applied such action can help to increase crop production among our small farmers, reduce losses and increase profit margins for farmers. Individual farmers and farmer groups in Mansion, Con Phipps and Tabernacle have benefited from this initiative. We will continue to explore how best to expand the programme to other communities as well as the feasibility of introducing other methods that are suitable to our conditions and that can enhance food security here in the Federation,” said Dr. Douglas.
In an effort to further diversify the food products available to the people, the Government has facilitated the establishment of a new agro-processors group – the St. Kitts Agro Processor Cooperative.
“This Cooperative is expected to assist with the introduction of new products into the market while at the same time secure new markets for existing products. I am pleased to report that, with the establishment of this group, we now have a total of ten (10) registered farmer groups. Agro-processing remains a viable niche market which can assist in poverty reduction through employment generation,” said the Prime Minister.
Dr. Douglas said that to further develop this promising industry, the Agro Processing Facility and the Demonstration Farm in Needsmust will be handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture later this month and entrepreneurs operating in this industry will therefore be able to further capitalise on the resources provided via this facility.
“In addition to further enhance the marketability of the locally- produced goods available to the public, the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) has provided equipment which will allow processers to generate and affix labels and barcodes to their products. The equipment is compatible with the systems used by shops and supermarkets in the Federation and will improve the stock management process. It will also allow agro-processers to meet the expectations of consumers in regard to packaging and presentation of products,” said the Prime Minister.
He said it is the hope that this will lead to a greater penetration of agro-processed products in the local market and increase the potential for export to markets regionally and internationally.