CARIBBEAN-AGRICULTURE-OECS officials pleased with development of agricultural sector in sub-region

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CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Jun 23, CMC – The St. Lucia-based says the agricultural sector within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is entering a new era of collaborative production for regional and international trade.
In a statement, the OECS Secretariat said that a comprehensive grouping of regional agriculture stake holders, which include ministers, manufacturers, and traders, are working to ensure the success of the initiative.
It said that the work of the OECS Agri-Export group began in June last year and OECS Director General Dr. Didicus Jules said only one year later, it has recorded many achievements.
Agriculture 0ecs“This is largely due to the influence and reach of the agricultural stakeholders involved, paired with the technological nature of the ongoing online meetings, which facilitates speedy action and decision making,” Jules said.
Among the main achievements of the Agri-Export Initiative include three refrigerated boats traversing the OECS and the wider Caribbean with agricultural produce and livestock.
“Regional trade has been facilitated with the service of the vessels which export a range of fruits and vegetables from as far north as the British Virgin Islands to as far south as Trinidad and Tobago,” he noted.
Minister for Agriculture in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Saboto Caesar, said that while regional trade is a priority as the OECS strives to lower its food import bill, it is also important that member states aim to be self-sufficient.
“At all costs, we should try not to import goods which can be produced on the island – whether from the OECS or extra regionally.
“National agricultural platforms need to step up and produce more. We should aim for self-sufficiency and collaborate to consolidate exports for extra regional trade,” Caesar said.
The OECS statement said that joint production for international markets is an area of great potential for regional integration and the continued development of OECS economies.
Jules said the achievement of group in the space of a year was not only testament to inter-regional collaboration but the strong desire to fulfill the economic aspirations of the OECS farming community with new commercial opportunities via the shipping initiative.
“Agricultural prosperity remains paramount to the OECS, not only in terms of economic advancement and reducing the unacceptably high food import bill but ideally we want to move to a stage where we, as a region, can produce a marketable surplus for export markets,” Jules said.
Farmers in Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines recently worked together to fulfill a shipment quota of dasheen to the United States, an order which Caesar said would not have been possible without collaboration.
Since the start of the initiative, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has shipped 3,325 fifty pound boxes of dasheen to the United States; and Dominica, on its first shipment, successfully exported a 20ft container comprising 425 boxes.
Opportunities to increase extra regional trade have also recently been strengthened by the B767 cargo aircraft service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines which offers 220,000 lbs of cargo space per week, the OECS Secretariat added.
The OECS groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin islands.

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