Monday, March 24, 2008
 


11/1/2004 - The Ministry of Agriculture
Address by Agriculture Minister Gregory Bowen

ADDRESS TO THE NATION DELIVERED BY MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE LANDS, FORESTRY, FISHERIES, PUBLIC UTILITIES, ENERGY AND MNIB, HON. GREGORY BOWEN ON FRIDAY 29TH OCTOBER 2004


My fellow residents.

As we move from the relief to the restoration stage after the natural disaster associated with Hurricane Ivan, our ability to feed the nation takes on paramount importance and food security will be a vital aspect of the strategy ahead.

We have to look at food security in the context of availability of a wide variety of foods and meats sufficient to provide nutritious diets and must be at affordable prices.

This must be supported by power for storage, information, water and energy for production, distribution and preparation for use.

Brothers and sisters, the restoration of these basic support services commenced the day after Hurricane Ivan wrecked our country with workers from the National Water and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA), Grenada Electricity Services Ltd (GRENLEC), Cable & Wireless G’da Ltd and the Roads Division of the Ministry of Works and Transport.

In fact, many Grenadians showed a true patriotic spirit by, of their own volition, clearing roads, assisting neighbours rebuild their homes, and bringing relief supplies from their limited stocks to those more in need.

The staff in the Ministry of Agriculture braved the destruction in this sector and ventured out to the remotest areas to provide an accurate assessment of the damage done, an exercise critical to securing the support of the international community.

I, therefore, wish to go on record as complimenting those workers and other citizens/residents who, not withstanding their own plight came out in the immediate aftermath of the Hurricane to start the rebuilding.

Alas, there were others who did otherwise and their actions have further strengthened my resolve in supporting the farmers’ wish for tough measures to prevent praedial larceny, a scourge which can be seen in the same light as (the vicious and negative actions displayed) looting.

Every utility sustained damages. The National Water and Sewerage Authority estimates that it will take EC$38.1 million to repair, replace or reinstate plant, equipment and/or general infrastructure.

Not withstanding after only two weeks, water was restored to over 80% of the populace and to pre-Ivan standards in five weeks. All this with the help of a donation of a complete set of laboratory equipment from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

The total loss of our rain forests induced dry season conditions during this the normal wet period.

NAWASA, therefore, is actively engaged in discussions with firms so that it can further explore the extraction of water from deep rock fissures, a new technology successfully used to provide water at an economic rate in the Caribbean and elsewhere. This could ensure an adequate supply of water during the period of reforestation when low rainfall is expected, and in particular, during the 2007 Cricket World Cup session.

As for Electricity, the deployment of containerized generating sets by Grenlec in Grand Anse, then St. Andrew and St. John saw the restoration of power in Grenville, Gouyave, Victoria and their surroundings while the Queens Park Power Station supplies the town of St. George and to the South and West of the Parish.

This means that the fish markets in these towns and Grand Mal can produce ice and provide storage for our fish. The fish market at Sauteurs where power from the grid is not yet available is served by a 40 kilowatt standby diesel plant.

Grenlec’s lines also suffered severe damage, which in turn caused damage to homes and other properties. The Grenada Electricity Service Ltd cannot obtain and so does not have insurance on its line plant, the poles and wires, etc.

To alleviate this problem, Government in 1995 mandated that Grenlec deposit EC$2 million per year from its income on which tax breaks are being granted into a Hurricane Fund. Today the fund can cover the damages suffered, estimated at $15 million.

I have therefore counselled Grenlec to change its policy of taking no responsibility for damages done to property by their fallen poles and lines during the Hurricane.

Every legitimate complaint must be examined and a report prepared thereby enabling the property owner to undertake the repairs in advance if he/she can, while agreeing with Grenlec on the assistance to be given. The Ministry has offered its support in this regard.

It is estimated that the entire country will again have access to electricity by end of February 2005.

Telecommunications service including, broadcasting was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. The damage done to the networks is estimated at $40 million.

Today, all radio stations are operational, although not up to full coverage, and all three mobile telephone providers are functional.

The low investment in battery-powered radio has however affected the receipt of information and some people may not benefit from the programmes that are being aired on healthy eating, in this post-traumatic period.

The landlines and internet network operator has given the deadline of Christmas to have 95% of the lines and internet customers’ service restored.

To all these utilities, Government gave concessions and expedited delivery at the Ports of entry.

In this regard, the dock workers, airport handling staff including the military and customs must be remembered for the yeoman service rendered.

Ivan struck in an environment of rising fuel prices on the world market. The price of gasoline at the pumps was fixed at EC$7.50 per imperial gallon since 2000 while world prices rose from US$30.00 then to US$55.00 per barrel post Ivan. This translates to $5.14 for the costs of one gallon of fuel, $0.90 for the gas station operators, and $2.33 in taxes to Government while the importers, besides foregoing their margin, subsidize the prices to the consumers to the tune of $0.87 per gallon. The margin for Shell Antilles and Guianas Ltd and Texaco (WI) Ltd, wholesale importers, had been, and should be $0.95 per gallon.

In order to restore the importers margin of 95 cents, either the price at the pump must be raised or Government must give up a proportionate amount of taxes to the importers. The latter use their margin to pay staff and to maintain their storage tanks, pipelines, trucks and other equipment to the standard required in this business.

Obviously, the price of fuel cannot be allowed to rise in our present post Ivan state. A reduction in revenues from $2.33 to 51 cents per gallon seems the only alternative at least to the end of the year.

Any increase in the price of fuel will result in a rise in the cost of production of local foods and meats.

The reported loss in the agricultural sector is $0.1 billion less than 5% of the total loss inflicted by Hurricane Ivan on Grenada. Of this, the amount required for the immediate recovery process is EC$19 million. This provides for tree plants for reforestation, plants for food crops, restoration of nurseries, general farming equipment and tools, pens for poultry, pigs and small ruminants, material and equipment for fishing, training and technical assistance. It does not take into account sustenance for farmers so necessary in the early restorations stage. No assistance from any donor will therefore address this critical factor.

It is against this backdrop that the following Government initiative for farmers and the agricultural sector was developed.

In this light, it is the aim of the Government to revitalize our country’s economic activity in the agricultural sector through the introduction of an Agricultural Emergency Rehabilitation Project. The overall cost of this project is $13.9 million dollars; and some 3,300 farmers and 6,700 workers will benefit directly, while 30,000 persons will benefit indirectly. The date of commencement is November 1, 2004.

This project entails the placement of income directly in the rural community, through the payment of farm workers for work done over a three-month period. It is expected that after this, farmers will have produce for sale and thus will be able to pay their workers and sustain themselves.

The following crops are targeted:

Roots and Tubers

Vegetables (including pumpkin)

Banana

Passion Fruit

Hot Peppers

Plantain

Rock figs

Christophene

Nutmegs

Cocoa

Spices

Farmers would undertake a number of the following activities:

Clearance and preparation of land.

Drainage.

Rebuilding of Pens for Poultry and pigs

Planting.

Pruning.

Fertilizing.

Pest and Disease Control.

Weed Control.

Clearance of access roads to farm

Collectively, 20,000 acres of farm land will be rehabilitated. These will include 1,500 acres of bananas and 115 acres of vegetables.

The programme will be delivered through an Agricultural Emergency Rehabilitation Unit made up of representatives from the Extension Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB), the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association (GCNA) and the Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA).

Farms will be organized in clusters of 15 and will be supervised by at least one inspector and six officers whose function is to ensure that the agreed work is done to standard and that the workers are paid. Farmers are expected to hire existing and additional workers as needed inclusive of the 250 young persons selected to participate in the Agricultural Training Programme that should have been on stream were it not for Ivan.

To ensure financial integrity, strict accountability will be required. Field Officers must certify that the desired work is done to satisfaction. Representatives from donor agencies such as UNDP, OXFAM and USAID will be invited to sit on the management committee.

Further, the Audit Department of the Ministry of Finance will be required to make regular audits of the programme.

6,050 bags of fertilizers will be distributed free of cost to farmers based on their requirements as certified by the field officers. This component of the programme has already started. So too has the distribution of seeds.

Assistance to the poultry and livestock sector will also be managed by the field officers. $1.8 million has been set aside for this. It should be noted that at present 90% of our meats are imported. $752,000.00 will be spent on machinery and equipment including 20 walk-behind power tillers, 100 chain saws and 50 shredder/chippers, while the allocation for payment for work done is EC$11.0 million.

Besides assisting fishermen with repairs to their boats and replacements of lines and nets, $1 million has been made available by Government for soft loans through the Small Enterprise Development Fund of the GIDC.

Further, communications equipment has been secured and within the next week fishermen should be able to venture to the outermost limit of our waters and be able to communicate with persons onshore. With this safety feature restored, full-scale fishing can recommence.

Another $1 million has also been made available for soft loans to farmers through the same institution.

$650,000.00 will be spent on farm roads. Under this activity, heavy equipment contractors will be engaged to assist in the clearing and restoration of the roads.

Farmers, your fear that the incidents of praedial larceny during this period could be increased is a realistic one, taking into consideration the environment where agricultural products are in hot demand.

Therefore, the Praedial Larceny Police Task Force will be finalized, equipped and deployed by 30th November 2004. At the first sitting of Parliament scheduled for 5th November 2004, a bill will be introduced for tougher measures in this respect both for the culprit and the purchaser of the stolen goods.

Hurricane Ivan has already struck. Let us ensure that we mitigate all other possible forms of disaster to the agricultural sector.

Therefore, heed the ban on hunting. If you kill our wild life, you are destroying the medium through which our forest will regenerate. The monkeys, iguanas, armadillos, opossum and birds have their part to play.

Besides, in your hunting travels, you may transport pests from infected to clean plantations. Do not transplant suckling that can carry diseases. Yes we need to plant, but plant wisely.

Do not import fruits, vegetables or plants that can bring diseases into our country. Remember the fruit flies. Hurricane Ivan has greatly reduced their population, giving us the golden opportunity to eradicate this pest.

The Ministry of Agriculture in conjunction with the Ministry of Trade is actively engaged in concluding trade protocols for markets for out crops with various countries. We will only be successful if we are pest free.

Farmers, fishermen, I have no doubt that you will live up to the commitment that you have made to feed our people and with the $2 million worth of the irrigation equipment arriving in November, you will indeed feed the nation more proficiently than before in the wet season and in the dry. Let us do our part in building a new Grenada, much better that it was before.

© 2003, Government of Grenada.