Antigua & Barbuda stands to lose an opportunity to export locally produced goods to St Croix and other neighbouring islands due to high freight cost.
Veteran Farmer Twin I Payne said there is a great demand for Antiguan produce in the USVI but the cost of shipping has to be addressed before the demand can be met.
The farmer, who has 16 years of experience, said he spent close to $10,000 weeks ago to ship agricultural produce to St Croix to secure his participation in the 2017 agriculture festival.
“I would love to see even the private sector and the government jumping on the bandwagon by helping the participants to get to St Croix at least with freight. We are representing the country and it is very difficult because I have to spend money to get a banner, T-shirts, labels, and other promotional material,” Payne said.
Payne, the proprietor of Twin Stud Produce, placed second in the competition he has supported for several years.
He was accompanied by another farmer and a number of key officials from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Payne said there is a large Antiguan community in St Croix and most of the residents there bought the local produce in bulk to ensure they are not without the main commodities from the twin island state.
“The fair is basically a Caribbean thing. Nevis has been winning for the last four to five years because it has the advantage of taking down the produce the day before the fair. However, we have to take the produce down a week before,” he said.
In order to get the produce to St Croix, the delegation had to charter an aircraft.
The farmer said he has held talks with an official within the USVI about export potential. However, there are concerns about Antigua & Barbuda’s ability to satisfy the demand.
But Payne is of the view that this could be done once farmers are willing to work together and if the government plays a supportive role.
The veteran farmer also advocated for more support to be offered to young people within the sector.
The agriculture festival provides an avenue for professionals from across the country to showcase their offerings.