Farmers in St. Lucia to Get Assistance Supplying New Markets

CASTRIES, St. Lucia – Export growth and stronger food security will be the focus of a new project, supported by the European Union (EU) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), that will seek to transform agriculture and agro-processing here.

CDBfam(Left to right): CDB Vice President, Operations Isaac Solomon; Minister for Commerce, Manufacturing, Business Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs, Emma Hippolyte; Naila Mangal of Mangal Trading Inc; Anthony Herman, President of Belle Vue Farmers’ Cooperative; and Minister of Health and Wellness Moses Jn Baptiste.According to the CDB, the project entitled ‘Enhancing the Capacity of Stakeholders in the Agricultural Sector to Supply Quality Products in new Markets’ will ensure inclusive and sustainable development along the agriculture value chain.

“This exciting new initiative, facilitated through the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) Standby Facility for Capacity Building, is designed to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people of St. Lucia and the Caribbean through strengthened trade and increased economic opportunities,” said the CDB’s Vice President of Operations Isaac Solomon.

Setting the context for the intervention, President of Belle Vue Farmers’ Cooperative Anthony Herman indicated that there is long-term value to be gained from the activities which include training for farmers and agro-processors in good agricultural and other practices through an arrangement with the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, the construction and upgrade of pack houses, and provision of a refrigerated truck to minimize food loss.

Another beneficiary, Naila Mangal of Mangal Trading Inc., said she was excited about the possibilities ahead.

“Today, I want all of you to take stock of how this project will benefit me, a young, female, agricultural entrepreneur,” she said. “This project will open new doors not only for me but for other female farmers and exporters.… These are the types of projects that we need to push the sector forward, and I am confident that it will do just that…. The work is only just beginning, but the benefits will last a lifetime.”

Minister for Commerce, Manufacturing, Business Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs Emma Hippolyte, speaking at the launch event, was pleased with the commencement of the project.

“The farmers of St. Lucia have for a very long time carried the weight of this country, and it has been through their toils that our people have progressed to where they are today,” she said.  “Strengthened by the resilience of the farmers, the government was keen to match that resilience with advancements in processing, technology and standards with continuous diversification beyond bananas in mind. The project which targets fresh produce for export markets, is welcomed and timely.”

The European Union’s Project Officer Sheldon Jackman said the results of the project are expected to go a long way in “advancing the competitiveness of the private sector, improving the infrastructure and quality standards of the agri-food system, while building the capacity among the agriculture value chain actors in St. Lucia”.

Furthermore, he said, it would deepen access to international markets for products emanating from rural farming communities which in turn will lead to economic empowerment through job creation, particularly for women and youth.

The project valued at EC$925,862 (US$342,588) is being implemented by Export Saint Lucia as part of its mandate to boost agricultural exports. It concludes in 18 months.

Export Saint Lucia’s Chief Executive Officer Sunita Daniel said it is in the country’s best interest to seek out these types of opportunities for clients.

“We are especially pleased with the capacity-building component of this project which will be delivered virtually, reaching farmers and other stakeholders wherever they are,” she said.