The Grenada Revolution Online

Work Towards Integrated Agricultural Development and Regional Cooperation
[10 November 1980]

Opening address at the regional workshop on fruit tree crops held in St. George’s.

Comrade Chairman

Directors General of IICA [Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture]

Distinguished Friends on the Platform

Sisters and Brothers from neighbouring Caribbean countries

Comrades All:

It is really a pleasure for me this morning to be able this morning to be able to welcome you to our country. Particularly, it is a great pleasure because of the number of countries and regional and international organisations which have managed to come to this workshop.

In fact, we have 18 countries and 12 regional and international organisations present and that, of course, is a very significant thing because it does say that a lot of people in the region are concerned, not just about agriculture in the sense of the traditional crop, but also about finding ways of diversifying agriculture and moving more and more into new areas of production.

This whole business of fruit trees has not been one of the more popular areas, certainly not in the English-speaking Caribbean.

I am also very happy this morning because what we have represented here today is not just our sisters and brothers from the English-speaking Caribbean, but also from the wider Caribbean and from Latin America in general.

In fact, there are not only people who speak the English language, but French, Dutch and Spanish, and that is very important to us because part of the thrust of the Grenada Revolution has been precisely in the area of trying to develop and to widen contact with our sisters and brothers throughout the entire region, regardless of what language they speak or which country they come from.

The third reason, of course, that makes this morning significant is because we are dealing with extremely important areas and this workshop hopefully will help us to analyse in some depth, in some detail, some of the problems facing traditional and potential fruit crops in the region.

We do hope that out of this period of analysis and evaluation, this period of assessment, will come the beginning of some solutions for the problems faced in each area.

And I am sure that over the next few days the countries are going to spend a lot of time looking at the question because there is a field component to this workshop, there will also come some very useful suggestions for our own development of fruit tree crops in Grenada.

May I make two apologies Sisters and Brothers. The first is for the absence of Cde. Unison Whiteman, our Minister of Agriculture, who is unfortunately out of the country. He had to leave at fairly short notice, and I know he very much would have liked to be here with us all this morning.

The second is the absence and lack of translation facilities and I do hope this will not mean that some of you are not always able to understand what is being said.

Agriculture is the motor and the heart of the Grenada economy. This fact is, of course, true for many countries in the Caribbean and indeed Latin America.

For us it means more dollars, more earnings for our countries, more foreign exchange.

For us it also means more food for our people. These are all very important reasons why agriculture is so very important to the economy.

It is also, as we see it, the base, the natural base for any industrialisation that will take place in our country in a serious way.

We wee it, therefore, as being the source and the future for the development of the economy and in general the development of our country.

But agriculture, of course, has had its problems over the past years. Last year, for example, we imported fifty-seven million dollars ($57,000,000) worth of food and food products.

But in that same year, with earnings from nutmegs, cocoa and bananas mainly, we were able to receive fifty-eight million dollars ($58,000,000). In other words, a balance in our favour of $1,000,000 which is ridiculous.

More than that, last year the overall imports into our country were valued at one hundred and seventeen million dollars ($117,000,000) so we had an overall deficit of sixty million dollars ($60,000,000).

This had to come from remittances from nationals abroad, from earnings in the tourist sector, and also from external grants.

If we are to break this dependence of our economy, because we do have an open dependent capitalist economy, then it is for us to greatly improve production in agriculture over the next several years.

We see the growing of food, in particular, as being a key component of any agricultural strategy, because I am sure that you will agree that if anybody on a desert island, for example, was asked to come up with a short list of items of products that he had to have to survive, the top of that list would surely have to be food.

We have found that the state sector in agriculture has been largely dependent on export crops and mainly on the tree crops of nutmegs, cocoa and bananas.

The sector in our country comprises some thirty estates and the average is about 150 acres to each estate.

The total average on all of these estates is just over 4,200 acres. It is relatively small, but yet it has been subject to tremendous deterioration over the years.

In 1978, for example, operating costs were in the excess of one million dollars ($1,000,000) while revenue that came in was somewhere around two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000).

By that, it is clear that the tax payers had to subsidise the agricultural sector, the state sector in agriculture, to the tune of something like $3/4 million.

Last year we were able to reduce that deficit somewhat. In fact, earnings went up to about seven hundred thousand dollars ($700,000) and some state farms were able for the first time to make small profits.

We believe that by a series of incentives for the workers, it will be possible to go on to increase these earnings for the state in the agricultural sector even more.

We have introduced, for example, a profit–sharing scheme under which the agricultural workers for the first time will be able to share in part of the profits which they make.

The basis plan is that of any profits made 1/3 will go back to the state, 1/3 will be used on the estate or farms for the purpose of further increasing production and providing more inputs on the particular farm, and 1/3 will be shared among the workers.

That incentive, of course, will be an important one.

Likewise, we have introduced the policy of equal pay for equal work for women on the government estates in the country and we certainly hope that the private sector will follow this example as rapidly as possible.

An emulation scheme also has been introduced under which every month the agricultural workers get together and discuss the problems on the farm, look at the question of projections and targets, discuss why they are not reaching their targets, or if they are reaching them how and why they did reach them.

In other words, the policy is to fully involve them and to encourage them to participate in the running of the particular state farm because our principle is that there must be no secrets from the workers of our country.

Everything that is taking place in a particular work place and in the economy of our country as a whole, must be open and subject to public and national scrutiny and debate.

And as part of this emulation process these workers choose, or will be able to choose, where that process has not yet begun, a worker of the month for each State farm.

In small areas like that, we believe it is going to be possible to make some impact and begin to push forward at a more rapid and more meaningful pace to further development of agriculture in our country.

Insofar as the private sector is concerned, in the area of agriculture, you will find that all agricultural land holdings in our country, total about 40,000 acres, and about half of these agricultural holdings fall in the bracket of 100–500 acres.

In our country, we have something like 87,000 acres of land and there are, as I said, 40,000 in agricultural holdings.

We estimate that perhaps 55,000 acres are cultivable but, in fact, a lot of it is not cultivated. Somewhere around 15,000 acres would be unutilized or grossly under–utilized.

So you have this picture of half of the land holdings falling into this particular bracket (100–500 acres), but at the same time, it is precisely in that section of ownership of agricultural holdings in the same country that the greatest amount of uncultivation and under–cultivation can be found.

The figures that we have from about four years ago indicate that 32%, just about 1/3 of all the land in the bracket 100–200 acres is unutilized. At the same time, in the bracket of 200–500 acres, some 68% of all the land is unutilized.

This is bad enough. But what compounds it to make it even more unacceptable, is that we have had a continuous decline over the years in the amount of land being cultivated. This drop has been, quite frankly, dramatic.

In 1961, for example, there were over 50,000 acres of land or 71% of the total land under-cultivated. By 1972, eleven years later, this figure fell to 56,000 acres of 66% of the land being cultivated, and by 1975, the figure had fallen to 46,000 acres of land or 54% of the land being uncultivated.

At the same time, the pressure for the land and the population/land ratio in the country, generally, has equally continued to get worse.

In 1961, there are 140 Grenadians to every hundred acres of land that we had. By 1972, eleven years later, this figure had become 151 Grenadians to every hundred acres.

By 1975, three years later, this figure had become 218 Grenadians to every hundred acres, and now by 1980, our estimate is that perhaps there are about 270 Grenadians to every hundred acres of land.

That just tells us that not every Grenadian who would like to own his own piece of land is going to be able to achieve that ambition because, apart from the over 100,000 Grenadians in Grenada, there are well over 400,000 Grenadians scattered throughout the metropolitan centres and different countries in the Caribbean, and all of them also have deep aspirations—patriotic aspirations—to own a piece of their mother land, but obviously that is not going to be possible.

That just means that part of our strategy is going to have to be to find a way of bringing all of the idle land in our country under production, and this strategy, in fact, we have begun in a serious way.

Our intention, which has been publicly announced on several occasions, is to encourage the private owners to being their land that is unutilized or under–utilized back into production.

We are willing, of course, to provide as much assistance and incentives as possible. This we have been doing through the extension officers, through the provision of greater marketing facilities and possibilities.

We are working more and more on developing a common pool of services which include tractors and what not, and we are also hoping that more and more farmers from the private sector will take advantage of the training possibilities and training facilities which have been established or re–established since the Revolution.

We also believe that utilizing this idle land is one way also of solving, or at least reducing the problem of unemployment, therefore, in our country.

We established some months ago, a Land Reform Commission, which was charged with the task of identifying how much idle land we had in the country and how many unemployed people in the country are willing to join together in cooperatives to work that idle land.

We were, in effect, seeking to bring about a marriage of idle hands and idle lands so as to end unemployment, as as to increase production, so as to earn more foreign exchange for our country.

And I can tell you that the Land Reform Commission, at this point, has identified well over 4,000 acres of land, though we know the reality is that there must bee nearer 10,000 acres of idle land.

Consistent with this policy and in order to fully implement it, we have, at the same time, established a National Cooperative Development Agency called NACDA, and this organisation NACDA is really a package of services.

It does about six different things. On the one hand, once unemployed people identify lands that they are willing to work, a study is done first of all to test the question of feasibility and capability of the particular land to do what the people hope to do.

We then, as government, begin negotiations with the particular owners to see if it is possible to arrange either free–hold or lease–hold purchase of the particular land. The land is in turn then given to the particular cooperative in lease–hold form.

Thirdly, NACDA at the same time, begins a programme of training of the young cooperators and this is to teach them the principles and practices of cooperative management and to instill in them in a deep and concrete way, the importance of agriculture to our country.

Fourthly, the question of funding then arises. NACDA make available loans for seeds, for fertiliser, for tools.

Then technical assistance comes into the picture the the question of the consistent use of the extension officers and also the cooperative officers attached to NACDA, who they work with the particular cooperative to ensure that production continues.

Finally, NACDA is involved also in assisting these young farmers to get the best prices for their products. In other words, assistance in the area of marketing.

Our overall view of a way forward for agriculture in our country is, first of all, to maintain the present acreage we have in the traditional crop, but move rapidly at the same time to increase the amount of production per workers. That is the first part of the strategy.

The second part is to move more and more into the area of food crops/cash crops. That, for obvious reasons [is] for effecting import substitution, for ensuring that the base of the economy widens so that the open dependent nature of the economy that now exists is gradually eliminated as we disengage from the clutches of foreign control.

The third area is precisely the subject of today’s seminar—the area of fruit crop production, which we see as being an essential component of the future of agriculture in our country, and hence the particular importance for us of day’s conference.

The fourth area is the question of agro–industrialisation, the question which the Director General himself has spent so much time in stressing in a very brief but important address a while ago.

We also believe that agro–industrialisation is a large part of the key to any strategy that is aimed at promoting, at developing and strengthening the agricultural sector in our countries in this region.

We, of course, have many problems which still need resolutions. There is the burning problem of pest and disease control, a problem which many of the officials in the Ministry would characterise as the biggest problem of all.

There is, secondly, the problem of praedial larceny, a problem which many farmers in our country would characterise as being the biggest problem.

There is the question of marketing which some of us in government believe to be just about the most important problem because if agriculture is about people and the development of these people, and the improvement of their quality of life, then one of the key questions, if not the key question, must be the question of price.

If the price is such that the farmer, the agricultural workers, is not able to enjoy a decent standard of life, then agriculture must collapse.

So a large part of whatever strategy we employ for developing agriculture, must have a long and hard sustained look at the finding of better markets, of obtaining prices so that the quality of life of the farmer, and in turn of the agricultural workers, would dramatically improve.

A fourth problem, of course, related to the provision of some of the key inputs that are necessary for agriculture, in sufficient quantities of fertiliser, insufficient quantities of seeds and plant materials.

There are also problems with which we will help. In fact, before cocoa propagators in our country were in such a sad state of disrepair, much of our work for the first year had to be centred around just bringing them back up to some level, from which a take off would be possible.

Fortunately, this has been reasonably achieved and we are now able to embark more seriously on phase two, that is the provision of much larger quantities of seeds and plants for the farmers.

A fifth problem, the question of inadequate and very often insufficiently trained expertise, whether in the area of extension officers, whether in the area of training facilities that we have or research facilities that are available, or whether in the area of appropriate technology that is possible in our particular condition.

In all of these areas too, we find that our country has been suffering in common, of course, with most countries represented in this room.

The sixth factor is intangible, but it is a very key intangible that we really have to begin to address more and more in a serious way if we are to tackle this problem of finding the best ways of planning in an efficient and effective way for our agricultural development, and that is the question of hurricanes and bad weather.

That is something in our limited state of technology which we have not been able to do very much about. And, of course, it has been increasingly a problem.

Last year for three months, for example, we had very severe rainfall which played havoc on our crops. In one month alone, the month of November last year, we had 23 inches of rainfall which is as much as some countries get for the entire year.

We found too that hurricane Allen which struck these islands a few months ago, although only the tail winds got to Grenada, just the tail of the hurricane was enough to throw down 19% of our crops in cocoa, 35% in nutmegs and 40% in bananas.

You would hardly wish to think what kind of damage it must have done to our sisters and brothers in St. Vincent, St. Lucia and most of all Dominica where they had three such occurrences in the past year alone.

This problem of hurricane and weather control is, of course, a typical one and perhaps as part of our general concerted effort to get the New International Economic Order [NIEO] going, one of the key answers in this area must be for us to press the developed countries to put aside money for a fund, and out of that fund will come on a pro–rata basis, assistance to countries that are, infact, inflicted and afflicted by hurricanes and problems of weather generally.

That call we ourselves have made most recently to the United Nations, at a special session to look at the question of a New International Economic Order, and it is certainly a call in which we believe that everybody should join.

But we feel too, that there must be some possibilities here for cooperation among ourselves. That these countries that are hit the least find it somehow or the other possible, to give immediate assistance to those countries that are really badly hit.

We feel that this is an extremely important thing. Particularly, we feel it is important for us not to allow the opportunity of damage done by hurricane or weather, to allow any policies that divide and rule to emerge in our region.

We notice recently, for example, that USAID was making feverish and desperate attempts to keep Grenada out of the assistance to WINBAN (Windward Islands Banana Association) following Hurricane Allen.

Notwithstanding the fact that the approach was made by WINBAN as one organisation comprising four countries.

To the credit and integrity of our sisters and brothers in Dominica, St. Vincent and St. Lucia, they have, in fact, spoken up against this divisive policy and have insisted that Grenada, in fact, be part of any assistance to WINBAN.  

I am sure that is the problem that is going to arise in the future and it is necessary for us to ensure that we always maintain a consistent, united policy on these matters.

Our policy is to try to deal with these six problems which have arisen over several years. On the one hand, of course, we have spent a lot of time on the question of training.

We have reopened the Mirabeau Agricultural Training Centre. We are desperately trying to find the necessary funding to open at least two more agricultural training centres.

We have established NACDA which I have spoken about already. We are training the workers who are going to be employed at our Agro–industrial plant to be opened in the next few weeks, and we have also opened a Fisheries School.

In this school, our fishermen are now able to learn something about the more modern techniques of fishing.

At the same time, of course, we have been seeking scholarships and training assistance in countries abroad. We have received offers and now have student studying, for example, in countries like Kenya, Cuba, Jamaica and Hungary, in institutions like the University of the West Indies and the Eastern Caribbean Institute for Agriculture and Forestry.

So we do see training as being a key component in the way forward for the development of agriculture in our country.

There have also been substantial improvements in the area of plant propagation in general, and most specifically, in the area of cocoa propagation and rehabilitation.

We have now been able to increase our annual output from about 150,000 upwards to 400,000 trees a year.

And our plan is with the assistance of CIDA [Canadian International Development Agency] and the Canadian Government to replant some 1,000 acres per annum over the next seven years.                

In the area, too, of pest and disease control, we have been working for the eradication of these problems. The FAO has given us the sum of US$105,000 to help to fight the Moko disease in bananas.

The nutmeg wilt disease—we have also received some assistance in that area. In the area of cocoa, particularly to deal with the thrips and beetles, we have also been attempting to obtain assistance so that our programme in this area can be rapidly stepped up.

I can tell the Director General as of now, that one approach we are certainly going to be making to IICA [Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture] is for technical assistance in the area of dealing with control of pest and disease.

We have also been making a drive to produce, once again, sugar in our country because the monthly increases in the price of that commodity has continued to be a source of great headaches to our people, all of whom need sugar.

We intend, therefore, over the next few months, to double the acreage presently under production, and quite a sum of money has now been set aside for the Sugar Rehabilitation Programme in our country.

In the area of reforestation, likewise, the plan is to plant or replant over 2,400 acres of our forest land over the next 15 years.

We expect that once that process is completed, we ought to be able to get at least 1,000 boardfeet per annum and that will represent just about 1/3 of our estimated needs at that time.

International agencies, of course, have been very important. It is precisely because we recognise the importance of technical assistance and other forms of assistance from these agencies that we have joined IICA, we have joined IFAD [International Fund for Agricultural Development], we have joined OLADE [Latin American Energy Association], over the past 18 months.

We continue, of course, to work with CARDI [Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute], CARDATS [Caribbean Agricultural Rural Development, Advisory and Training Service], with the Caribbean Food Corporation, the Caribbean Conservation Society, the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Council, the Caribbean Development Bank [CDB], University of the West Indies, CARICOM itself, the OAS, FAO, the United Nations and several other regional and international organisations and agencies, and we have found, in practice, that this work has been extremely important and has brought many benefits for the country.

Apart from this workshop being opened today, for example, tomorrow another workshop and seminar will be opened in Mirabeau; this one by OLADE, and this one will be concentrating on the whole question of bio-gas and the possibilities in that area for developing a source of alternative energy.

And that, also, will be an extremely important workshop.

From IICA itself, we have been able to get quite some assistance in the very short time we have joined that organisation.

Only last month, we received a study done by IICA which analyses our markets and marketing systems of fruits and vegetables in Grenada and that study is of the most fundamental importance to us, and I am sure that participants at this workshop will find it very useful to thumb through that study to see what might be there of any value for your own countries.

So, sisters and brothers, this workshop is of the greatest importance. The whole question of tree production is central to the development of our own strategy and I have no doubt the strategy of several other countries in this room.

As possibilities for food, agro–industrialisation, provision of more jobs, alternative energy possibilities, the possibilities of developing feeds out of waste parts of the fruits—we see the question of fruit tree production as having a lot of value to all of these areas.

In our own country, the production in this area is small. It tends to be scattered and dispersed over several different estates.

We have found, in fact, that most people who are into fruit tree production have been doing this more in the form of backyard gardening more than anything else.

It is, therefore, more by a combination of chance and of fertile soil and favourable growing conditions that any fruits are grown at all in the country.

We are sure that out of this workshop more of our people will find new incentives, new material reasons why we should see this area of production as being key and as having possibilities for material benefits for themselves.

I hope, therefore, that over the next four days that you spend in our country, not only on our field trip, but in your moments of leisure, you may perhaps enjoy our beaches and the friendliness, the warmth and the hospitality of our people, that you are able to enjoy yourselves.

I hope as a result of that you would wish to return on some future occasion for a holiday. We certainly would like to thank IICA and the other sponsors and contributors for allowing us the privilege and the honour of hosting this conference in our country.

We also want, once again, to thank you, the participants, for coming from your own countries, for being here in our country. We are certainly very pleased to see you and hope to see you again very soon.

I, therefore, declare formally open this Caribbean Workshop on Traditional and Potential Fruit Tree Crops Development.

Thank you very much.




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