Farmers air their concerns about the future of agriculture

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Farmers in Antigua and Barbuda have been inundated with many challenges as they try to eke out a living over the years.

Recently, some of them spoke with OBSERVER about their concerns with regard to sustaining the industry.

“The struggle is that the younger generation nowadays does not wish to go into the farming probably [because] they feel it is beneath them and they don’t see the potential in the farming, so they are looking more for – probably – bank jobs. Farming does not pay too much either, so they are probably looking for more money,” Paul Papadopoulos, a local shrimp farmer said.

Last Friday, five farmers participated in the ceremonial signing of contracts to mark the official launch of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Long-Term Agricultural Land Lease Programme.

However, the agriculturalists said although they are pleased that their struggle to obtain security of tenure is at last bearing fruit, they are still toiling through serious issues that may affect the development of Antigua and Barbuda’s food security.

During the launch of the Land Lease Programme, Minister for Agriculture Dean Jonas spoke of the nation’s high rate of lifestyle diseases and the high food import bill. He said the inability to retain money in the nation’s coffers is directly related to dependency on food imports.

Jonas said that this, in part, inspired the creation of the land lease project since it will help to increase food production.

However, issues such as labour are now a concern for these large-scale farmers since the supply of labourers is far from adequate.

Elton Ryan, a livestock farmer, added to the list of concerns, saying: “What we have problems with is the survival [of] animals with respect to dogs coming on our farm. People keep saying that they are wild dogs, but they are not wild dogs at all; they are people’s dogs

who are coming on our farms.”

He said these dogs present a major threat to the security of livestock on farms, adding that although the Dog Registration Control Authority has helped, a lot more needs to be done in order to have this vexing issue resolved.

Meantime, the agriculture minister is encouraging organizations who would like to help young people develop skills and livelihoods in the area of agriculture to step up and assist the twin island state.

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