IICA reaffirms its commitment to Federation’s agro-processors
Basseterre, St. Kitts — After a successful three-day mango value-added workshop attended by 31 agro-processors from both St. Kitts and Nevis, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) has confirmed that it will conduct a follow-up session in February next year.
The workshop which was held at the Taiwanese Agro-Processing Facility, Needsmust, was facilitated by Dr Donald Mercer of the Department of Food Science, University of Guelph in Canada.
“We are not stopping here,” assured IICA’s Coordinator for St. Kitts and Nevis office, Mr Augustine Merchant. “Dr Mercer has committed that he will be back here with us next year and we at IICA have made the commitment to bring him back here next year.
“Dr Mercer sees it as a partnership. He is partnering with us because he really wants to ensure that this process goes on and on. So, I want you to feel the same way.”
Mr Merchant, who was speaking at the workshop’s closing ceremony, on Wednesday October 14th, advised the workshop participants to practise what they learnt, either by teaching others or by venturing into businesses. In whatever areas they were not too sure, he confirmed that Dr Mercer would address them upon his return.
“Based on what I have seen over the past three days, you are very enthusiastic and I must commend you for that,” said Mr Merchant. “We hope that this enthusiasm will be able to translate into action – and that is action after you have left here.
“The products which you see over on this side are the products which you made and hoping that it would not be the first and last time you are going to make these products, I hope that once you leave here, you will be trying them as well as other products.”
Mr Merchant noted that the country, and especially Nevis, has an abundance of mangoes which is one of the cheapest resources, yet it is not fully utilised. He hoped that in the next three years they would hone their skills, and that some of the products they make would end up on supermarket shelves and even on cruise ships.
“We take this workshop very seriously and we hope that you also take it very seriously,” advised Mr Merchant.
He thanked the other stakeholders in the workshop, the Ministry of Agriculture which was represented at the closing ceremony by the Permanent Secretary Mr Alistair Edwards, and Director of Agriculture Mr Melvin James; and the Taiwanese Mission to St. Kitts and Nevis which was represented by Mr Yu-Ming Lu.
Workshop facilitator Dr Donald Mercer said it had been a pleasure to share the past few days with the participants, to work with them in the processing facility and to see the products they developed on their own. He hoped that a seed had been planted which would start to bear some form of fruit as they go on.
“We have seen a lot of stuff that has happened over the past few days,” said Dr Mercer. “The products look kind of nice and when you dress them up, you can take them anywhere. My congratulations to you: We have candid mangoes, dried mangoes, we have some dried carrots, just to show you that you can dry other things and some of you have shared your products with us.”
In making brief remarks Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Alistair Edwards, thanked IICA for organising the workshop, saying that Mr Merchant is very consistent in the way he pushes to have training done by his organisation for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
He praised the agro-processors for producing high quality products which were in great demand. He however lamented that there are not enough people willing to be involved in the business and as a result there is not enough products to satisfy the market.
“When we are successful we need to take full use of it,” advised the Permanent Secretary. “That is my challenge to you.”
Two Food and Nutrition teachers who attended the workshop, Ms Lorna Smith of the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College in St. Kitts and Ms Denice Walters of the Charlestown Secondary School in Nevis talked of the benefits of the workshop and how it will benefit their students, while well-known agro-processor and local ice cream maker, Mrs Gene Wallace-Primus of I-Queen’s gave an overview of what they learnt.