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Regional farmers critical of Caribbean governments

Antigua Observer

Regional farmers critical of Caribbean governments


5 April 2011

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, CMC – Small farmer organisations from across the Caribbean have criticized regional governments and their bureaucrats for leaving them to “see for themselves” during a period of rising food prices and declining agricultural products.

The criticism came during the start of a two-day workshop here Tuesday to discuss the benefits from a technical assistance programme being initiated by the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN) and funded by the Office of Europe-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Liaison Committee, Pest Initiative Programme (COLEACP/PIP).

COLEACP/PIP is an inter-professional organisation devoted to the ACP-EU horticultural trade. It’s global objective is to promote the horticultural trade of African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and to strengthen the competitiveness of ACP horticultural export companies and, in particular, small and medium-scale growers.

It also seeks to ensure compliance of exports with the demands of EU markets in terms of the official controls and commercial requirements. Conference coordinator Jetro Greene said that Caribbean governments have placed the farming industry on the back burner providing little support to the farming community.

He told delegates that even now, at a time of a food crisis, Caribbean leaders were only pretending to care since it has been very easy to discern that they were not really concerned.

“So what they are trying to do now is to play catch-up. They are a lot of recommendations on paper and several policy documents but in terms of adopting any practical or implementing solutions there are not even proper financing mechanisms for farmers to produce commodities.

“There are not even proper marketing and storage throughout most of these countries, these some of the burning concerns. So we in the Caribbean Farmers Network decided that it was time to act, as we can no longer trust the future of agriculture at the national and regional level in the hands of bureaucrats who jump around like chickens with their heads cut off when there is problem and who have been pushing services over agriculture,” Greene said.

The Caribbean small farmers and their representative organizations are discussing strategies for improving their quality of life and will participate in a needs assessment programme.

“We are meeting with those institutions that fund agriculture programmes and we would not be asking but telling them what we want in terms of our desire to improve the quality of life of our farmers and their capability to produce.

“With support funding from the European Union, they are going to decide how the two year technical assistance programme can be utilized to help train and generally improve the lot of farmers,” Greene added.

Earlier this year, CaFAN and COLEACP officials met to develop a technical assistance programme targeting all CaFAN members and small farmers in 12 Caribbean countries.

“This is part of an ongoing effort of the Caribbean Farmers Network to reach out and engage international partners to bring both technical and farmers resources to support regional agricultural development efforts targeting primarily small farmers,” Greene said.