Dr Harris roots for positive and progressive approach in agricultural sector

Senior Minister and Minister of Agriculture in St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr Timothy Harris, addresses the opening session

Basseterre, St. Kitts (June 1, 2010) — Senior Minister and Minister of Agriculture in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr Timothy Harris, has told his Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) ministerial colleagues that the region’s agricultural sector is better placed to shore up local economies in the backdrop of recent global financial crisis.

“This is a time of great fluidity in our Caribbean and, indeed, in the wider world,” said Dr Harris on Monday when he delivered feature remarks at the opening of the two-day Meeting of OECS Ministers of Agriculture in St. Kitts. “Europe is still smarting from the financial and economic recession, which, despite strenuous efforts to achieve fiscal balance, has still resulted in some measure of pain and social dislocation.”

Dr Harris told the meeting that the Caribbean is beset and besieged by the slowdown in economic activities that have resulted in a fall-off in employment, reduction of foreign direct investments, deceleration of inflows of remittances and decreased revenue intakes.

“More particularly, in the field of agriculture, the global crisis presents several threats to the continued stable development of this sector in our region. However, if viewed in a positive and progressive light, and with a strong will to really work the process, these threats can be converted into building blocks that are capable of propelling the Caribbean to a zenith that will surpass the heights of all previous endeavours in agriculture.”

The opening ceremony, which was held at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort, was graced by the presence of the Federation’s Governor General His Excellency Dr Cuthbert Sebastian. Also attending the Meeting of OECS Ministers of Agriculture for the first time are tourism ministers due to the important linkage between agriculture and tourism.

Ministers in attendance were Matthew Walter (Dominica, agriculture), Michael Lett (Grenada, Agriculture), Ezechiel Joseph (St. Lucia, Agriculture), Allan Chestanel (St. Lucia, Tourism), Ricky Skerritt (St. Kitts and Nevis, Tourism), and Robelto Hector (Nevis, Agriculture). Montgomery Daniel of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Agriculture) arrived after the opening ceremony.

Explicating the scope of the two-day meeting, Dr Harris said: “We are assembled here, in this meeting, to take and make deliberate and insightful decisions, on a number of projects and studies that must be translated into meaningful action, and which will become inherent catalysts to drive, both forward and upward, the desirable and worthy objectives of the OECS agricultural sector.

“We are gathered at a time when globally, since the food crisis of 2007, the world community seems better predisposed to agriculture playing a role in food security, economic growth and development, poverty alleviation and employment generation. The FAO has been unrelenting in its efforts to promote agriculture.”

According to Randolph Cato, Senior Director and Director of Economic Affairs OECS, the meeting was originally scheduled to take place in Dominica, which bowed out and St. Kitts was requested to host it at short notice. In his part, Dr Harris said: “We in the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis are especially pleased and happy to play stand-in host, and to facilitate this meeting at this very crucial time in the development of the sub-region.”

The two-day meeting is also seeking, in a most practical way, to strengthen locally the linkage established between the agricultural sector worldwide where the global tourism industry creates a rich and dynamic value chain that is capable of satisfactorily rewarding all participants involved in its supply chain.

However, Dr Harris lamented that some players do not derive the fullest benefits that can accrue to them, primarily because of poor positioning due in part to lack of appropriate policies, programmes and operations. He noted that the OECS countries have not brought to bear the requisite professionalism, aggressiveness, assertiveness and boldness to the realm of capturing the virtually endless opportunities for rewards that are available in the value chains that serve the hospitality/tourism sector.

“I suggest to all of us across the Caribbean that we must strengthen these value chains, for the benefit and betterment of our region, by ensuring that we become more deeply engaged in as many aspects, as possible, of the operation of the value chains,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis Minister of Agriculture.

Dr Harris expressed gratitude of the OECS and each of its member states to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the European Union (EU) and the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation CFTC), for their continued superlative partnership, funding and technical assistance in advancing the cause of OECS Agriculture.

“I am especially grateful to the government of Venezuela for ALBA Alimentos programme and the government of Cuba for its technical assistance programme,” remarked Dr Harris. “Our Ross University Veterinary School and our primate facilities are playing an increasingly important support role of which we are proud.”

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