Farmer supports Government’s minimum price list proposal

By Demion McTair. Updated 7:26 p.m., Tuesday, January 17, 2023, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).

Former Chairman of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Fair Trade Association, Mr. Philemon Allen has supported calls for the implementation of a minimum price list for agricultural produce.

In an interview today (January 17) with One News SVG, Mr. Allen said: “Put the minimums so that people would not take advantage of the situation.”

Last week during the debate on the 2023 National Budget, Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar said the government will look into the prices farmers are getting for their produce from traffickers.

In an interview with One News SVG over the weekend, Mr. Caesar said a preliminary list of the minimum prices for agricultural produce will soon be released by the Government.

According to Mr. Caesar who is currently the longest serving agriculture minister in CARICOM, the list will be released for public consultation.

The move to release the list comes in the wake of a growing dispute between farmers and traffickers/traders of agricultural commodities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where farmers are making less money than the value of their produce because traffickers who buy the farmers’ goods set the final prices for the commodities.

Mr. Allen who once served as Vice President for the Windward Islands Farmers’ Association – WINFA and has been farming for over 60 years, said the minimum price list proposal is “one of the the most progressive moves by the Ministry of Agriculture in years.”

Mr. Allen who was also a quality assurance personnel for Geest said he has also felt shortchanged by traffickers.

“There is no control. Farmers are at the mercy of these people. This week, you may hear plantains are at 80 cents, before you wink, it’s 60 cents,” he said.

He added that nothing should be sold to traffickers by the bag. He said farmers’ produce should be sold to traffickers by the pound.

“Eddoes might be 200 per bag, in two weeks, it might fall to $40 per bag. Nothing must be sold by the bag because when these traffickers go overseas, they sell by the pound,” Mr. Allen said.

“The prices don’t give farmers incentive to produce. We don’t want to sell anything by the bag. Everything must be sold by the pound, he reiterated,” adding that the bagging presents a quality issue as well.

Mr. Allen who is the President of the Racacca Farmers’ Cooperative said the proposal to have a minimum price list is also justified by the increasing costs of agricultural production.

“Over the years, we have faced varying factors.
Day by day, you’ve been hearing the cost of production increasing. I remember the days when fertilizer was $30 per bag, without the government’s subsidy it would be more expensive than it is today,” he said.

“Look at Labour. Labour moved from $20 to $40 to $50, and some persons are saying they are not going to work with you if they can’t get $50 for the day. All those variables are affecting farmers, he said.

He said, “even though price on the external market is favourable. They want to cut the price like a yo-yo.”

“It’s a wise move, a very brilliant one. You cannot sell below the cost because the farmers won’t get anything— the traffickers will get everything. It is a good move,” he added.

The government plans to release the list of minimum prices for agricultural produce by January end.

The new minimum price list which will be released for public discussion will take into account the increase in price for fertilizer and other factors farmers are facing.

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