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Grenada’s Cabinet approves financial package for cocoa farmers

(Photo: caricomtoday.com)

Grenadian cocoa farmers can, at last, breathe a sigh of relief as they will finally receive financial aid from that country’s Government.

At its meeting on Monday, Cabinet approved the loan disbursement of $1 million to the Grenada Cocoa Association, which will provide price support payments to farmers, similar to the loan approved a few weeks ago for nutmeg farmers.

According to Grenada Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who is also minister of finance, the grant and loan support will help to buffer the loss of revenue caused by the association’s inability to export cocoa and chocolate.

Dr Keith Mitchell and his Cabinet have reviewed and decided on the GCNA and GCA’s proposal for COVID-19 relief. (File photo)

“Cabinet has specifically agreed that the funds should go primarily towards maintaining current price levels for farmers to ensure that they are not further disenfranchised by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Government, we are deeply concerned about the well-being of our farmers and we feel morally obligated to help safeguard their livelihood,” Mitchell stated.

“The pandemic has significantly impacted the country’s revenue but Government remains committed to finding ways to bring relief to our people,” he continued.

Excluded on shopping days

In late April, the Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA) and the Grenada Nutmeg Cooperative Association (GNCA) wrote to the Government complaining of their members’ businesses suffocating under the nationwide COVID-19 related state of emergency in place at that time. In particular, they bemoaned the exclusion of nutmeg and cocoa farmers from selling their produce on permitted shopping days.

(Photo: Now Grenada)

“We have noted the entities that were given clearance to operate and we find the constraint placed on the GCA and GCNA for so long to be unfair, unreasonable, unconscionable and totally unacceptable,” the two associations said in a joint statement.

The representative groups also called on the Government to offer EC$4 million in financial support and proposed measures to alleviate conditions for the more than 8,000 farmers.

Subsequently, the Government of Grenada, while disputing some of the GCA and GCNA’s claims, committed to reviewing the proposals.

Farmers get support

In May Cabinet approved, in principle, a price support payment for nutmeg farmers as part of assistance measures to provide COVID-19 relief to Grenadians.

And just last week, Minister of Agriculture and Land Yolande Bain Horsford revealed that Cabinet was in the process of reviewing the GCA’s request for assistance.

Grenada’s Ministry of Agriculture and Land Yolande Bains Horsford (Photo: NOW Grenada)

According to a release from the Office of the Prime Minister, both the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association and the Grenada Cocoa Association have been provided with specific terms and conditions for the grant and loan support.

Further, Dr Mitchell explained that one specific requirement is that the associations should merge operations to create greater efficiencies in the overall management structure.

“Optimising efficiency and profitability is no longer optional; the time has come for a serious and demonstrated commitment to serving the best interest of farmers. Government has advocated this position for many years as it would significantly reduce the costs associated with managing the commodity boards. Less expenditure means more cash available for the benefit of farmers,” the prime minister asserted.

A farmer removes cocoa beans from their pods on the Belmont Estate in Grenada
(Photo: Belmont Estate)

In the meantime, the Government will await feedback from both the GCNA and the GCA on its proposals.

Faced with inventory build-ups from the lack of export, the associations may have to buy cocoa and nutmeg from farmers, putting a further strain on their financial viability.