The Member of Parliament for St George Algernon Watts has said that the country’s Ministry of Agriculture is in disarray, and is hoping that the new Minister E.P Chet Greene will right the wrongs of his predecessors
Watts, who is involved in farming himself told Parliament on Monday that farmers are giving up because of a lack of water and basic amenities required for their daily functioning.
“They [farmers] are calling me every day. No support for them, not even the drinking water they have. The water woes that the agricultural community is suffering are so serious that many farmers are giving up. I had to go to APUA daily to buy water to water plants,” Watts said
He said roads to the farms are impassable, telling Parliament that “poultry farmers are complaining when they drive in, coming out with their eggs, eggs smash up, eggs shattering. It is difficult for farmers to bring food to the table. Under these conditions,” he said.
Farmers are also affected by predial larceny according to the St George MP and not even the police can do much about it.
“The Commissioner of Police said quite recently that the roads are a hindrance to the police. The police can’t get to the farms and stop the thieves…They feel the roads are so horrible that even if somebody spots a man on your farm and they call the police, the police can’t get to it. So, then they waste time,”
He said however that farmers must be applauded for being “the best in the world. You are asking our farmers to produce under these conditions. I am farming cucumber melon, and cantaloupes and I’m getting water once every three weeks as though we’re planting cactus in Antigua”.
Watts who was debating the 1.8-billion-dollars budget recently presented by Prime Minister Gaston Browne made no mention of how these problems can be addressed
“Our farmers have to be paying APUA thousands upon thousands of dollars to run water to the farms because the infrastructure is not in place. I have seen farmers with quotes of up to 50,000 and more. There are farmers inside here who was they were allocated land, but because no water, then they said they couldn’t do it,” he added.
Watts said it seems like the Ministry of Agriculture does not have a sector plan or a production plan in place.