Roseau, Dominica – November 7, 2008……….In recognition of the role the agricultural sector plays in the important areas of income generation and food security in Dominica, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Hon. Matthew Walter has outlined initiatives and programmes being undertaken by Government to boost that sector.
Hon. Walter made the remarks in an address at Market Day with a Difference at the Roseau market last Saturday.
According to the Minister, Cabinet has granted approval for the establishment of an Investment Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture to spearhead the capital investment plan of the Ministry. This Unit will also be responsible for identifying feasible investment opportunities in the agricultural sector and promoting these investments to ensure an increase in the output from agriculture.
Mr. Walter also announced that in an effort to ensure that market opportunities are maximised, the Ministry of Agriculture will seek to encourage farmers to pursue contract arrangements with fresh produce buyers. The newly established Agricultural Information Management System (AIMS) housed at the Division of Agriculture, will be utilized to fulfil this initiative, as this system has been designed to produce the required information on production and markets to facilitate better organisation of production and marketing.
In order to address the quality of fresh produce for export to the region, work is well advanced on the construction of two fresh produce packing houses in Roseau and at Long House in Portsmouth.
In his address the Minister also highlighted measures that are being taken to lessen the impact of the high cost of imported foods and fertilizers on the farming population in particular.
Ø In order to alleviate the high cost of fertilizer faced by the farming sector, Government has approved the importation of fertilizer by DEXIA to be sold to farmers at 70% of the landed cost. This will result in a substantial reduction in the cost of fertilizer to the farmers and will allow them to be more competitive in the production of their crops
Ø The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has also approved US$250,000 for Dominica to assist in cushioning the effect of the increase in the price of imported foods. The FAO’s programme is designed specifically for this assistance to be utilized to provide inputs to subsistence farmers and fishers in order to allow them to boost food production for themselves and their communities.
Following the passage of Hurricane Omar recently, Government moved very quickly to assess the damage to the fishing communities of the West Coast and immediately approved allocations for relief payments to fishers and assistance for getting the fishers back to their trade. The sum of $400,000 has been allocated for relief payments to fishers who have suffered loss of income and the sum of $4 million is to be used to provide assistance for repair and replacement of boats, engines, locker rooms, fishing equipment and infrastructure.
“These measures are designed to assist the farming and fishing sub-sectors to recover quickly from these situations and to cope with the impact of these events, thereby continuing their operations and enabling their productive activities, ” Hon. Walter concluded.