An Extension Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs has commended a number of programmes and projects being undertaken to boost the agricultural sector at the community and national levels.
Sereno Benjamin said about 100 farmers are currently involved in a small-scale farmers’ project which is designed to upgrade their status, according to a release from the Ministry of Agriculture.
He also commended the Commonwealth of Learning Programme which offers training at three different locations, including St. John’s, for producers to improve their farming and business acumen.
Benjamin disclosed that a local delegation left for Jamaica on February 4th to participate in an exchange programme, whereby a delegation from Jamaica will visit to observe Antigua and Barbuda’s agricultural practices.
Also, a delegation of local producers as well as Ministry of Agriculture personnel will travel to the Virgin Islands to explore marketing opportunities and participate in an Agri-Fest Exhibition, he said.
The senior official said activities like these will help boost the local agricultural sector among its regional counterparts.
“They would increase awareness of the agriculture sector as well as they contribute to value-added products. If you could have a significant amount of value-added products in agriculture, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP would increase as well as the possibility of increasing the income of the people
in agriculture,” Benjamin stated.
He also spoke of other factors which will help increase the sector’s contribution to the GDP.
These include the Reverse Osmosis Plant that is to come on stream and the ministry’s long boom excavator which is being used to clean dams and ponds and construct new rain water catchments for irrigation purposes.
In commenting on the Agricultural Technology Cooperation Project between Antigua and Barbuda and China, Benjamin noted that this project is also designed to facilitate the development of the agricultural sector and there are several components to it.
Although the minister and senior agriculture officials have been making the rounds to highlight the major long term benefits of such a project, Benjamin said he is concerned that there are still some people who may not be fully appreciative and understanding about what the project’s outcome is designed to be.
But he said once it goes according to plan, the project should be impacting the agricultural sector in a major way.
The training for farmers and other personnel within the ministry of agriculture will begin shortly, as the demonstration farm under the banner of the Agriculture Development Corporation (ADC) is being set up to facilitate the training.