Newly appointed Senator Roderick St Clair has called for the establishment of a national organisation to lobby on behalf of farmers and fisher folk to address the issue of governance.
Delivering his maiden address to the November 10 sitting of the Upper House, Senator St Clair gave his commitment “to move toward a national body of farmers and fisher folk charting the way forward in a very progressive way.”
In welcoming St Clair to the Senate, President Chester Humphrey noted that farmers have been the “backbone of Grenadian civilisation from the time of our indigenous fore parents,” and the new senator has an “important mission” in the transformation of agriculture.
St Clair said now is the time to reboot agriculture in terms of technology and “putting our boots on as a nation and engaging in agriculture.” This transformation must encompass implementing total quality management, adding value to crops, embracing technology and pursuing comprehensive market development. While acknowledging the progress and setbacks of the past, Grenada must make a vision that takes agriculture, together with fisheries, in a more “meaningful and sustainable way” going forward.
“We need to safeguard agriculture before it slips away from us,” he stated emphatically.
St Clair, who is the general manager of the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association, recalled his younger days farming with his father in Grand Bras, Saint Andrew; attending field trips with La Digue farmer Finbar Hopkins and former agriculture minister (now deceased) George Brizan; working in the Produce Chemistry Laboratory; teaching agricultural science in secondary school; and serving 20 years at the Marketing and National Importing Board.
“All gave me inspiration,” he told the Senate, as he outlined the many challenges farmers and fisherfolk must cope with in this COVID-19 environment. From dogs allowed to roam in the night killing goats and sheep to the lack of financing for farmers and fisher folk alike, from inadequate ice machines to the differing problems for specific agricultural subsectors, St Clair said the need for a national organisation to address governance is long overdue. He also pointed to different challenges for different sectors within agriculture, such as poultry producers and beekeepers, adding that spice production in the Spice Isle is on the decline.
Moreover, “we are losing lands,” he said, noting that “buildings just keep going up on good agricultural land.”
“We want to see our agricultural lands safe guarded,” and farm access roads fixed.
He described the whole marketing system as “very weak” stating that farmers cannot grow a crop if they do not know how that crop will be sold.
“We need strong, vibrant markets locally and overseas,” he said.
For his part, St. Clair said he is committed to dialogue with farmers and fisherfolk “in a structured way” to pursue a transformation of the two sectors.
“I put forward that this must be the history of the future – we must start writing the future – it will happen when all hands come together and working in an integrated way” for farmers and fisher folk.
St Clair was elected by representatives of eight farmers and fisheries organisations on September 16 to represent them in the Senate following the departure of Dr Dustan Campbell, who resigned for medical reasons.