St Lucia Marketing Board has approached the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) for assistance as it restructures its operations and revises its scope to better facilitate the island’s farmers.
While most Saint Lucian farmers possess solid markets for their produce, many experience challenges in securing stable and profitable markets. More importantly, the country continues to import an estimated EC$4.5 million (US$1.67 million) annually.
The Government of St Lucia, therefore, believes the restructuring and revision process is “a critical move” that will reduce the country’s food import bill and support the marketing of farmers’ produce.
As a result of this ongoing thrust, the manager of the St Lucia Marketing Board, Amatus Edwards, recently met with representatives of the IICA to discuss the proposed scope of the agency’s involvement as well as to explore avenues for future cooperation.
Representing the IICA were: Gregg Rawlins, IICA Representative in the Eastern Caribbean States; Allister Glean, an international specialist in agribusiness and value chains; and Brent Theophile, a national specialist in the Saint Lucia delegation.
According to a release, during the meeting Edwards stressed that one of the major thrusts of the marketing board will be “the facilitation of exports from the island as well as more effective coordination of farmer production and marketing to meet the requirements of both domestic and export markets.”
This is in keeping with the vision of St Lucia’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Cooperatives, Ezekiel Joseph.
Edwards further stated that emphasis should be placed on establishing traceability systems that would contribute to improved food safety throughout the production-marketing chain.
“Reducing the food import bill is of primary importance, and supporting the effective marketing of the farmers’ produce will see us addressing two key issues at once,” the St Lucia Marketing Board manager added.
In response, Rawlins welcomed the efforts towards revisiting the role and primary function of the marketing board and indicated IICA’s commitment to support these efforts.
He suggested, also, that emphasis should be placed on creating a balance between developmental and commercial activities of the marketing board and filling gaps where these existed while minimising competition with the established private sector.
The IICA representative to ECS then identified initiatives spearheaded by the Theophile-led Delegation in Saint Lucia and private sector interests to build online platforms for market information and intelligence as well as to facilitate e-commerce activities.
Glean, who is no stranger to the marketing board, reinforced an earlier commitment by Rawlins to support the work of the Marketing Board. He further stressed that the Government of St Lucia had clearly displayed the necessary leadership in the restructuring process and that, with the appropriate resources, the marketing board would have the necessary impact.
Glean had previously managed the initial restructuring process of the Marketing Board and Fish Marketing Corporation under appointment by the IICA. During that time, the marketing board discontinued its operations in March 2019 then resumed a month later with Edwards at the helm.
In addition, Glean oversaw the privatisation of the St Lucia Fish Marketing Corporation.
The meeting, therefore, served to reaffirm the commitment of the Institute to enhancing food production and marketing in Saint Lucia, which Edwards welcomed.
Both parties have, as a result, agreed to regular engagements in the future to support the restructuring and development process.