Increase in the number of new farmers raising land challenges

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By Carlena Knight

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Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture say there has been a significant increase in the number of persons registering to become farmers amid the Covid pandemic.

Although a definite number could not be given at the time, officials like the Southwest District Officer Oniecia Anthony credit the backyard gardening initiative for the sudden increase in her area.

That district ranges from Christian Valley in Jennings to Claremont in Old Road and boasts over 200 farmers who are best known for producing the Antigua black pineapple, plus a wide variety of mangoes and also ginger.

Anthony mentioned that due to these rapid numbers, another challenge has arisen in providing adequate land space for new registrants.

“We have more applications than lands available right now for farming,” said Anthony.

“One of the things that I have noticed is that a lot of young persons are coming into it, as most of my applications are young people. Some of them were doing it in their backyards on a small scale and then afterwards they have come to expand,” she added.

The issue of providing adequate land space to meet the increasing number of farmers is one faced by the other districts as well.

Agriculture Minister Samantha Marshall confirmed this to Observer but said plans are being discussed to solve the problem.

“Lands that are not really being in use, a recommendation has come from the Extension Division … to cease having other persons pay for those lands and try to redistribute the lands to those who have proper business plans in place with whom we can monitor better and give additional support to make sure it happens,” Marshall said.

She reaffirmed that her ministry is still working to find ways to resolve the other issues plaguing farmers – access to water being the greatest.

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