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Grenadian Gov’t refutes farmers’ claims of neglect

The Government of Grenada in a statement assured cocoa and nutmeg farmers in that Caribbean country that it is considering how best to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their livelihood.

In addition, the Government said it has communicated its position to both the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association (GCNA) and the Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA).

The Government of Grenada said it has indicated to both the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association and the Grenada Cocoa Association that it is considering how best to address the financial impact of the coronavirus on their members’ livelihoods .
(Photo: Now Grenada)

Just last week, the GCNA and GCA expressed concern about the Government’s easing of curfew restrictions which excluded their members. Both organisations asked the Keith Mitchell Administration to act swiftly to address their concerns.

In a statement, Grenada’s Ministry of Agricultures said it was “surprised by the claims contained in the 27 April 2020 press release issued jointly by the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association and the Grenada Cocoa Association”.

“Given Government’s readiness to collaborate with the associations to secure the well-being of farmers, the press release is regarded as premature and not accurately reflective of the actual situation,” the statement continued.

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

According to the ministry, it started having discussions with both farmer associations about a month ago, on March 26, 2020, about the potential impact of COVID-19. AT that time, the ministry said it requested a proposal to address the expected fallout from the virus.

However, while the parties continued discussions on the subject matter, the GCNA and GCA submitted the revised proposal on April 22, 2020, with a request for government support of almost EC$4 million to support operational expenses.

“Without allowing adequate time for Government to examine the veracity of the proposal and determine its ability to provide assistance, particularly during this time of significantly reduced revenue collection, the associations have unfortunately resorted to public distortion of the facts, without any apparent semblance of accountability on their part,” the Ministry of Agriculture outlined.

“Government has also repeatedly called on the GCNA and the GCA to modernise their operations and develop the type of business acumen that would help to improve the potential for profitability and enhance the well-being of farmers.”

Grenada’s Ministry of Agriculture and Land

The ministry shared that the proposal has been with Cabinet for deliberation at its meeting on Monday, 27 April 2020. Further, the National COVID-19 Committee is will also discuss the associations’ proposal this week and consider purchasing produce, in keeping with the recommended protocols for business operations.

The ministry also noted that the Grenadian Government has offered financial assistance to cocoa and nutmeg farmers in the past.

“For many years, inadequate management of the commodity boards has resulted in Government repeatedly stepping in to ensure that farmers are not marginalised,” the statement highlighted.

“Government has also repeatedly called on the GCNA and the GCA to modernise their operations and develop the type of business acumen that would help to improve the potential for profitability and enhance the well-being of farmers,” it continued.

Dr Keith Mitchell and his Cabinet were to review and decide on the GCNA and GCA’s proposal at their meeting on Monday, 27 April 2020. (File photo)

Still, the Ministry of Agriculture reiterated its commitment to supporting the farmers, and that it is currently reviewing the financial implications of the associations’ request with a view to making a decision.

“As previously communicated by the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Government of Grenada assures the population that while it is committed to providing relief to vulnerable sectors of the population, it is unrealistic to expect Government to be able to meet the needs of everyone, particularly as it too faces a significant reduction in revenue generation,” the statement pointed out.

The Ministry of Agriculture has called a meeting with the associations and Ministry of Finance officials to discuss the proposal. The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance has also been invited to participate.