BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - THE agriculture sector in St. Kitts and Nevis continue to see improvements, according to Director Agriculture Melvin James, despite recent concerns that there might be a scarcity of several produce on the local market.
James attributed the improvements within the sector to favourable weather conditions in 2016 as against the drought-like conditions that affected all sectors of the country in 2015.
Speaking with reporters at the opening of the Taiwanese exhibition yesterday (Feb. 9), James informed that there is need for the Department and farmers to change their dependence on favourable weather conditions for growing crops.
Against that backdrop, he said “that is why we are going into the area of protected structures”, noting that accessibility to water continues to be a challenge for the farmers, since output has a direct relation to the weather.
“That is something that we would have to be able to resolve. The Water Department is drilling new wells and there are all of these discussions about how we can convert seawater…and so on. But, until we get there, it is always going to be the same story.”
During the drought-like period in 2015 and parts of 2016, St. Kitts and Nevis saw well below-average rainfall - resulting in low levels of surface and groundwater.
This forced the Water Services Department to institute a lengthy period of rationing of the life-preserving commodity in all parts of St. Kitts.
Farmers were urged to use the drip irrigation system when watering their plants, in order to avoid water wastage and flooding the plants.
But the Minister with the responsibility for water sector and other officials from the Water Service Department have all indicated that over the next few months, rainfall levels are expected to return to normal.
Speaking to the scarcity of ground provisions on the local market, James noted that market data must be taken into consideration when rationalising if there is indeed a shortage. He added that because the Federation does not produce staples in large quantities year-round, the possibility exists that “sometimes you would find that there are gluts and there are times that there are not so much”.
“So if it is within the normal trends, that is how it is. What you need to remember, is that our agriculture is rain-dependent. And so, whenever there is a drought period, then months after it shows. I haven’t been apprised that there has been anything abnormal,” he said.
On average, the Federation produces approximately 1000 metric tonnes of staples annually, and last year the sector was able to push out 900 metric tonnes, James informed.
“The farmers…continue to try very hard given the technology that they know and the resources that they have. So I'm glad that it is reflected in the output.”
Meanwhile, the Director noted that the regular shipment of produce from Dominica is not having any impact on the production level of local farmers, and stressed that it supplements the local level, ensuring that there is always produce on the local market.
“I don’t think the impact is difficult as we would sometimes say on the road. People just look at the produce and say ‘look at all that produce coming in from Dominica’. It is mainly bananas. We are not a banana-producing country; the impact is if we decide to produce bananas instead. But in truth and fact that there is always competition and we always need to deal with competition.”