The Agriculture Sector in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other Member States of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is on the brink of a new era in collaborative production for regional and international trade.
A comprehensive grouping of regional agriculture stakeholders, which include Ministers, Manufacturers, Traders, representatives from the Bureau of Standards and the OECS Commission, are working together to ensure the success of the initiative.
The virtual OECS Agri-Export Working group began in June of 2016 and, only one year later, has seen many achievements due to the influence and reach of the agricultural stakeholders involved, paired with the technological nature of the ongoing online meeting, which facilitates speedy action and decision making.
Minister for Agriculture, Saboto Caesar, said while regional trade is a priority as the OECS strives to lower its food import bill, it is also important that Member States aim to be self sufficient.
“At all costs, we should try not to import goods which can be produced on the island – whether from the OECS or extra regionally.” “National agricultural platforms need to step up and produce more. We should aim for self sufficiency and collaborate to consolidate exports for extra regional trade,” Minister Caesar said.
OECS Director General, Dr. Didacus Jules, said the extensive achievements that the working group was able to cover in the space of a year was not only testament to inter-regional collaboration but the strong desire of the group to fulfill the economic aspirations of the OECS farming community with new commercial opportunities via the shipping initiative.
Since the start of the initiative, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has shipped 3,325 50pound boxes of dasheen to the United States; and Dominica, on its first shipment, successfully exported a 20foot container comprising 425 50pound boxes of dasheen.
Opportunities to increase extra regional trade have also recently been strengthened by the B767 cargo aircraft service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines which offers 220,000 pounds of cargo space per week.
Projections for agricultural production in the region are expected to show a marked increase as Member States prepare for smart production aimed at efficiency and competitiveness, and innovative stakeholder collaboration in the sub region continues.