Roseau, Dominica – July 15, 2008….. Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit has announced additional government interventions to deal with one of the most pressing economic challenges of our time – making our agriculture more competitive in an era of rising food prices.
In his 2008/2009 budget address, Prime Minister announced measures designed to modernise the agricultural sector with the long-term aim of increasing food security and increasing agricultural production in Dominica.
According to the Prime Minister, Government will establish an investment unit within the Ministry of Agriculture to spearhead the agriculture investment plan for the country. Government’s investment in that sector will be guided by the “Invest in Dominica- Secure Agriculture Investment Plan’, which is geared towards stimulating greater production output to bring stability to prices on the domestic market.
The investment plan proposes to accomplish the following:
· Establishment of a revolving fund to be accessed by farmers, agro-processors and exporters;
· Establish propagation services to provide healthy and vigorous plant varieties for a wide range of fruit and vegetable crops;
· Upgrade legislation and regulations for the enforcement of contracts and for the reduction in praedial larceny;
· Develop legislation and regulations for land use and land availability with regard to the establishment of a land bank;
· Provide appropriate incentives to encourage the participation of youth and women and other entrepreneurs in agriculture;
· Support the safe and efficient post harvest handling of selected crops, poultry, pigs and small ruminants;
· Establish demonstration units in crop production; and
· Provide on a regular basis technical information to assist farmers in taking opportunities in existing and new markets.
The Prime Minister also announced the establishment of a revolving fund at an appropriate financial institution to provide credit to farmers and agro-processors. Funding for this facility will come from the European Union under the Special Framework of Assistance. These resources will be used to finance the credit line and other activities under the agricultural investment programme.
To address the issue of securing adequate sea transportation for the export of agricultural produce to regional markets, the Prime Minister announced that resources would be made available under its SFA resources from the European Commission to carry out a feasibility study on acquiring appropriate sea transportation to move agricultural produce within the region. This study will inform Government’s plan to obtain a vessel for transporting agricultural produce.
The measures outlined in the agriculture investment plan will be supported by ongoing initiatives and incentives to encourage Youth and Women to participate more fully in agriculture, to strengthen and modernise the infrastructure for the handling, distribution and export of crops and livestock products and to enhance competitiveness in crop production and processes.
It was also revealed in the budget address that the Chinese agricultural mission is providing support to the sector by way of producing hardy, disease resistant planting material.
Despite the numerous challenges facing the agricultural sector as a result of global pressures, agriculture continues to play a major role in sustaining rural livelihoods and contributing to economic growth in Dominica.