Farmers Coalition mounts Greencastle inspection, still seeking answers

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“Answers” are what farmers said they were in search of when they carried out an inspection of the Greencastle Agricultural Station in Bendals on Wednesday.
The participants were members of the National Coalition of Farmers, the group which has been consistently requesting information from the government on its agriculture development project with the Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture Company (LPHT).
At least 2,000 acres of land has been committed to the project.
Fitzmorgan Greenaway, Coordinator of the group, told OBSERVER, that since the information coming from the ministry has not been sufficient in the farmers’ estimation they “thought it would be wiser to come and see for ourselves.”
The station is one of the areas being used in the agriculture project with the Chinese company. At the station were seedling beds with plants being cultivated for replanting as well as ploughed areas and areas where greenhouses are reportedly supposed to be erected.
“We are sensitising ourselves as to what they are doing because we are not getting any information,” Greenaway said. According to him some of those questions are: “What is the government’s contribution in this arrangement? What is the Chinese contribution? Where will all the lands be allocated?”
The Coordinator also said that although the government supplied the farmers with a copy of the project agreement, it lacked the “detail” and “specificity” which members were seeking. The Coalition has asked the government to suspend the project until the farmers are better informed about its parameter and how they will be involved.
One of the aims of the project is to train locals to use technology in farming. The LPHT is supposed to send eight agricultural experts to work in Antigua for three years to provide technical assistance in the area of vegetable and tree cultivation and processing technology. The company is also supposed to establish seven greenhouses; two for
experimental demonstrations and five for commercial production in the Greencastle area.
The main concerns of the farmers who have
spoken out about the project appear to be the large amount of government land dedicated to it, the involvement of a China-based company and how exactly the project is expected to benefit them.
In May, Dean Jonas, minister of Agriculture said that immediately after the project is launched and is fully operational, the government will allocate up to 2,000 acres of land both on the mainland and in Barbuda for crop farming.
However, one leaked supposed copy of the project agreement and another official copy released by the Ministry of Agriculture both indicated that 4,000 acres of land would be allocated for the project. Even Gaston Browne, Prime Minister has said that he was not aware of, neither did he give approval for 4,000 acres of land to be used for the project.

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