E.P Chet Greene, the newly appointed Agriculture Minister has said that the sector needs a fresh beginning and he is the right man for that job.
Greene took over from Samantha Marshal who lost her seat during the last general elections. Marshall was the only unsuccessful member who was given a ministry but not Agriculture.
In what he deemed a new vision for Agriculture, Greene said farmers must embrace the investments as private business people.
He said while his Government will always be an enabler and will always have to incentivize agriculture, farmers should not believe that they can run to the government for everything.
“It’s a powerful sector. Lots of potential. Those in Antigua who are big in agriculture have made millions. I don’t want to call anybody’s name, but allow me to call at least two. George Purcell; he has made significant sums from his toil in agriculture,” Greene said.
The MP for St George Algernon Watts raised the issue of water unavailability as a deterring factor for farmers in the country but Greene said this is nothing new.
“This has been ongoing for generations. The crops that we all knew when agriculture was king in this country did not require water. You stick a cane shoot in the ground and it grows anyhow. But today’s agricultural output and responsibility are different”
Meanwhile, two separate decisions have been made for bonafide farmers to subsidize water through APUA, according to Greene.
“And in the next 14 days, farmers who have submitted their documentation and whose farm operations are, of course, bona fide, will start to see the commencement of the installation of water on their farms”.
“So, Mr. Speaker, the first point, all registered farmers are encouraged to go into APUA and have their water services registered and we will start within two weeks with the installation of water. It is 25% plus 25%, so it’s 50% subsidy for water farmers realizing how important food security, food sovereignty, and food safety is in this country,” he added.
The move is especially very important according to Greene since the country is heading into the dry season
“Mr. Speaker, because as we go into the dry season, farmers will understand the importance of getting registered now, and my colleague Minister and his team will understand the urgency of how to get those farmers registered with APUA connected so we can deliver on a promise,” he added
Where fertilizers for farmers is concerned, Greene said the government will be seeking to further expand the program because of the growing interest in farming.
“I hope to welcome the member for Saint George back to the agriculture sector, this time in a meaningful way, in a serious way, so that he too can get some fertilizers and be contributing to what we call this new vision in agriculture,” Greene added.
The government he reminded, has been subdividing lands free of cost and surveying, free of cost for farmers in Antigua and Barbuda.
“We understand as a government the food shortages that are plaguing other areas of the world. We hear the stories of shelves in England empty, in Canada, empty. We have not had those problems in Antigua and Barbuda because this government has intervened at every step of the way to ensure that not only farmers but all traders themselves are taken care of to the benefit of Antiguans and Barbudans,” Greene said.
Greene also rubbished the notion that the Chinese are here to take agriculture from the locals.
“Chinese are here to assist us. With their technological advancements. They have a large population in the world and they feed them. So we can learn from that…” he added.
The chlorine in APUA is too strong to be used in water agriculture crops.