Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonzalves,
Honourable Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonzalves
Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Caesar Saboto,
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors of Belgium, France, Germany and the United
Kingdom High Commissioner,
The National Authorising Officer,
Private sector representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen
I must say that, if as Ambassadors we have quite often the chance and pleasure to
be in such good company, it is usually between the four walls of some official
But being here today, in the same excellent company and in the middle of the
blooming nature, ready to launch this Greenhouse Park that is nothing less than a
concrete result of the fruitful collaboration between the European Union and St.
Vincent and the Grenadines, gives an extra meaningful dimension to our mission
Many of you know the Banana Accompanying Measures, more often called the
"BAM", as an EU-SVG programme that has complemented our bilateral cooperation
during the last 10 years. Many of you have seen the feeder roads and the agricultural
infrastructure that are now in place thanks to this programme.
What you might not know is that originally, the BAM came about as a result of the
Geneva Agreement in 2009, which settled the dispute between the European Union
and banana producers in Latin America – and resulted in a reduction in tariffs from
EUR 176 per tonne to EUR 114 per tonne, and eroding the export market of the ACP
producers. It amounted to EURO 190 million and was meant to support the African,
Caribbean and Pacific banana producers to cope with the new challenges deriving
from this Agreement. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have benefitted of EUR 10
million (9.93) under this programme.
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am proud to see that today the BAM is a diverse, dynamic and integrated
programme that goes far beyond the purely compensatory action that it meant to be
at the beginning.
And this is thanks to you: communities and authorities have come together to define
the best way this programme could help both the population at grass roots and the
country's economy at macro level.
What you can see here is not only some buildings and greenhouses; it is the
concrete representation of your own vision of reviving the Vincentian agriculture, of
making it competitive, sustainable and able to satisfy the internal demand from local
production and supply.
What we launch today together, Honourable Prime Minister, is a humble step forward
towards this vision: very soon the greenhouses will be all covered, quality soil will be
brought from the most fertile parts of the island and the solar panels – that are now
on their way from Germany – will be installed.
This will make the Montreal Greenhouse Park fully operational and ready to serve the
scope it was meant to: produce high quality seedlings and vegetables that will
eventually, hopefully, succeed in satisfying the internal demand and to even go
beyond that – like for instance supplying the cruise industry and completing the
agricultural value chain through processing and commercialising national food
A greenhouse park provides only the opportunity to meet the quantity and the quality
requirements of the markets. The rest will be done through hard work from the
communities, through thorough planning and adequate support from the government
and through investment and involvement of the private sector.
I do not need to stress the fact that agriculture is a primordial sector for a country. But
I do want to point out that agriculture is also just as risky a business as it can be
profitable. In a region where the weather is not always the farmer's best ally, it is
important to take the necessary precautions to make it as safe as possible: careful
planning, respect of the building codes and other disaster risk reduction measures,
insurance packages – are only a few of the necessary ingredients.
The European Union and its Member States – and please allow me to recognise here
the presence of my friends and colleagues the Ambassadors of Belgium, France,
Germany and the UK High Commissioner, are committed to support St. Vincent and
the Grenadines way beyond the BAM – which will already end by next year.
An EUR 6 million comprehensive programme on Road Management and Rural Road
Improvement will soon start in the country, founded by the EU and implemented by
the Caribbean Development Bank – aiming both to support the agricultural sector
through increased access and quality of feeder roads, and the transport sector in
general by focusing on resilient and climate-proof road infrastructure.
This brings up the amount of bilateral cooperation between EU and SVG to around
EUR 33 million during the last 10 years, cooperation focusing on key strategic
sectors of the country like agriculture, infrastructure and health. In this line, I am
happy to see that most of the activities under the 10 th EDF, focusing on health
infrastructure, are completed. Soon, public health facilities like the Milton Cato
Memorial Hospital, the Mental Health Centre or the Buccament and Mesopotamia
("Mespo") Polyclinics (we have passed by this last one on our way here), that were
renovated or fully constructed and equipped under the EU-SVG cooperation – will be
ready to provide high quality services to the Vincentian population.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is also part of various programmes we are now
preparing for, or already implementing in the Caribbean region, aiming to strengthen
the capacity of regional organisations and of their member states to cope with and
adapt to climate change impacts and to increase the overall resilience of the
communities and infrastructures The Global Climate Change Alliance and the ACP-
EU Natural Disaster Risk Management in the CARIFORUM Region are only two
It is also part of ongoing regional projects aiming to preserve human rights, to
strengthen civil society and to increase security in the region – like for instance the
cooperation with the CARICOM Secretariat on the Drug Demand Reduction
We are overall very happy of the results of our cooperation in its both dimensions –
bilateral and regional, and we can assure you that this cooperation will continue well
after the BAM and after the 11 th EDF.
To conclude, I would like to thank
both the Vincentian local communities and authorities for making this project
to the Honourable Ministers Camillo Gonsalves and Caesar Saboto for their
support and for believing in this programme,
to Ms. Laura Anthony-Browne, who was the National Authorising Officer for 19
years before retiring a few days ago and to her team,
To Mr. Hutchinson and his company for the excellent and timely work done,
And, last but not least, to all those (farmers, civil servants and private actors)
that will shortly bring to life this facility!
Excellencies, if you allow me, I would add one more thing:
It is imperative to be ambitious in this endeavour: producing locally, especially
through sustainable agriculture, is one of the best ways to reduce imports – which
often translate into high costs and high emissions, and thus fight with local means
and answers against global challenges.