Honourable Deputy Premier, Delmaude Ryan Speaks at the Opening of the 2016 Agri-Expo in Little Bay, Montserrat
The following speech was delivered by the Honourable Deputy Premier, Delmaude Ryan at the Opening of the 2016 Agri-Expo on December 15th, 2016
Today is what we are hoping would be a turning point in the Agricultural sector in Montserrat , as the Ministry of Agriculture launches its agricultural strategy & marketing plan 2016-2021 and celebrate the work of farmers.
Putting together this plan, based on the feedback from those who participated, was painstaking and rigorous. This was so because great care was taken by the Ministry to ensure that the views of many stakeholders, not least those of the farmers and producers were included.
The development of this strategy comes at a critical time for agriculture in Montserrat. Montserrat, historically, was known as the breadbasket of the Leeward Islands (much like Dominica today); supplying fresh food to neighboring islands like Antigua & Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis and as far as Curacao, for potatoes, tomatoes and tamarind and even peppers to Trinidad.
Agriculture maintained a 3% contribution to the islands growth between 1983 and 1995. Although the industry declined over the years due to migration and a lack of interest by the younger generation, it was experiencing a rebirth in the 1990’s before the volcanic crisis began. The crisis as we know, our best farm lands in the central corridor and in the East inaccessible and reduced the acreage available to agricultural production.
Farming for those farmers, who remained was challenging, given the topography of the land, soil quality and the threats of effects of the volcanic activity such as acid rains. The fishers has also had their share of challenges, with reduction in the designated fishing boundaries; and fishing storage infrastructure being destroyed.
How do we overcome such challenges?
This agricultural and marketing strategy is a step in the right direction in establishing a point of reference to monitor Government of Montserrat’s commitment in strengthening and repositioning the agricultural sector.
Perfecting the use of new technology in farming and fishing is a must, if we are to make agriculture sustainable in the North of the island. Engaging the youth in agriculture as a viable career and business aids the sustainability of the sector, and the value added to fruits vegetables and meats improves our competitiveness in the region and beyond. It is a known fact that access to markets are critical to the survival of the industry, and this is what this strategy seeks to do.
The strategy also responds to the call to our islands vision of a wholesome and healthy Montserrat. If we eat more of what we grow, rare and catch, we are sure on our way to being healthier.
We as households must also heed the call to be active back yard gardeners. Planting crops at the back or around the house has significant benefits including increased access to fresh food, improving food security and nutrition, and being a tool for sustainable development and local food production.
I therefore join the call for our supermarkets to accept more locally grown foods and products, which to my mind are of equal or better quality than those imported.
You the farmers must also play your part by being more consistent in the supplies of vegetables, meat and fish.
Yes, we are part of the OECS and CARICOM and support the free movement of goods. However, our government’s vision is to see more of our locally grown foods on our supermarket shelves and shops, thereby decreasing the amount of food that is imported into this country.
It is my firm belief that this agricultural exposition and the strategy and marketing plan are designed to make this vision a reality, which takes you and me to bring it alive.
Let’s eat fresh and stay healthy!!
Photos by ZJB Radio Montserrat, found on the Spirit of Montserrat Facebook page.