BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Feb.27.2018 – DIRECTOR of Agriculture, Melvin James says that farmers in St. Kitts have yet to transition into the modern high-tech era, which sees the dominance of protected structure type farming.
He pointed to hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, shade houses and greenhouses as some of the modern farming techniques that are not being used by local farmers.
James, while addressing members of the diplomatic corp, government officials and farmers at the Department’s conference room today, explained that instead of using the new initiatives, farmers continue to practice open-field farming.
Open-field farming is the technique of planting in an open space rather than a covered, shaded location as in shade houses or aquaponics, which is highly dependent on rainy weather.
The performance seen by that style of farming is largely dependent on the weather, James said, adding that the dryer years of 2015 and 2016 have proven that it is a challenge to continue to implement such techniques.
According to the director, the two years saw mixed yield outputs owing largely to dryer that usual conditions.
“Again, we were on our way to improvements in 2017 when our progress had significantly changed by two devastating hurricanes.”
Giving an overview for the year 2017, the Director pointed out that farmers took advantage of the good weather last year which resulted in increased yield for the first nine months.
He explained that they were able to increase the overall output from 922 metric tons in 2016 to 1094 metric tons in 2017.
“In fact, up to August we were recording a 20 percent increase over 2016, but the hurricanes brought significant damages. They destroyed much of our vegetation; many farm structures; livestock themselves succumb; the infrastructure damage; soil loss, farm structures and overall losing some $4 million.”
Meanwhile, he disclosed that they saw increases in several crops namely, pineapple, sweet pepper, cucumber and onions.
However, the Director stated that they saw decreased outputs in two of the Federation’s major produce – mainly sweet potatoes and pumpkins.
“Sweet potato production in 2017 was 172.3 metric tons compared to 181.9 metric tons before, representing a loss of 5 percent. Sweet potato and pumpkins are two of our traditional crops, which have been identified as crops with very good marketing potential, to be marketed to the Caribbean in places like St. Maarten.”