Contact: Shannon Lebourne
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 – Agriculture Minister Honourable Ezekiel Joseph says he is committed to the development and use of agro-processing techniques in the quest to diversify the agriculture sector and to add value to locally grown produce.
Minister Joseph was speaking on Monday, December 21, at a sod-turning ceremony for the construction of an agro processing facility in the community of Fond Assau, Babonneau.
The new facility is being constructed on the site of the old Fond Assau Boxing Plant and is expected to be fully operational in about seven months.
“There is a need for agro-processing,” the minister said. “There is a need for us to utilise our locally grown products to produce down stream products that can provide much greater returns to our farmers. As the minister for agriculture, my ministry thought it was important for us to go the direction of agro-processing and to revisit some of the gains and experiences which were accomplished in the past, to enable us to undertake this project and make it a reality.”
When complete,the new Agro Processing Plant will facilitate the manufacturing of paper from “sudo stems”.
Locally grown breadfruit, dasheen, green plantain and green fig, will also be used to manufacture vacuum-packed products for export.
Minister Joseph says he is excited about the prospects of the vacuum-packed initiative since the products will be marketed locally, regionally and even internationally.
“With regard to the international markets, there is already a great demand for vacuum-packed products, so I would like to indicate that the new agro-processing facility will be operating at international standards. Because we will be dealing with food, we will have to satisfy ourselves that we are meeting all the requirements to ensure that we are in a position to export our products. I was in the UK recently, and I met with several supermarkets that have indicated their willingness to purchase vacuum-packed products from us.”
Minister Joseph says the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), is intimately involved in training locals in the area of agro-processing in preparation for the new facility.
For its part, the Taiwanese government has allocated $EC1.5 for the construction of the Fond Assau Agro-processing Facility.
Ambassador H.E. Tom Chou says, when complete the facility will play an important role in creating employment for locals and will generate income, particularly for rural folk.
He says the construction of the agro-processing facility is another component of the joint efforts of the governments of Saint Lucia and Taiwan to promote the sustainable development of agriculture,diversification and the introduction of new technologies to enhance the agriculture sector.”
“The role of the Taiwanese government in this project is to provide technical support and financial assistance to renovate and equip this facility. Today we are here for the sod-turning ceremony so this is the time for us when we have to work to turn the dream into a reality.”
The agro-processing facility is the latest in several projects financed by the Taiwanese government for the development of agriculture here in Saint Lucia.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Hubert Emmanuel says as part of ongoing efforts to diversify the agriculture sector, funds have been allocated for the renovation and upgrade of an agro-processing facility in Anjer, quarter of Micoud.
He says that project is expected to come on stream very soon.
Mr. Emmanuel says when fully operational the two agro-processing facilities have the potential to transform the agriculture sector.
“For years we have been engaged in primary agriculture, but as a deliberate policy effort, the ministry of agriculture has recognised the need to engage our farmers in agro-processing in order to add value to our local products. With the assistance of the Taiwanese government, we are now ready to enter that next phase of our agricultural development,” Emmanuel said.
Agriculture was once the main stay of the local economy.
The ministry of agriculture has vowed to continue working with the government of Taiwan to further develop the sector in a sustainable manner for the benefit of the economy and all stakeholders.
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