Basseterre, St. Kitts, July 5, 2018 (SKNIS): During the airing of this week’s edition of “Working for You” on July 04, E. Alistair Edwards, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, encouraged farmers to take advantage of the fund of EC$1.5 million available at the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Mr. Edwards explained that the fund is part loan, part grant. The loan part is $1.5 million and the grant portion is $500,000. The farmer must be registered at the Department of Agriculture to qualify.The loans will be available to eligible applicants at the rate of five (5) percent per annum.
The permanent secretary stressed the importance of registering.
“We have been encouraging farmers to register. We’ve made the registration fees almost like a pittance. Nobody pays more than 500 and that’s for over 15 acres of land that you are allowed to use. We want them to understand the importance of registering and having a relationship with the Agriculture Department,” he said.
It was noted by the permanent secretary that having data is necessary. He added that the department needs to know how many farmers are operating in the Federation and the types of crops they produce.
“You are talking about import and export; we talk about the World Trade Organization (WTO) and banning things and restricting the market. They are the same people who are crying out like that. They don’t want to register with the department, but the only way we can protect them is through numbers,” said Mr. Edwards.
Proper book keeping is part of the thrust to have farmers register.
“We need to prove on our books that in St. Kitts-Nevis we have 85 pig farmers, who are growing pork and this is affecting their families, an average family size of about four persons and this is the kind of argument that we have to use at the WTO in terms of getting assistance,” said Mr. Edwards.
Mr. Edwards said that the grants and loans are being used as incentive for persons to register their business.
“We need those numbers. So this is an incentive maybe in reverse to encourage them to register with the Department of Agriculture,” he explained. “Let us know what you are doing and we are not saying it’s for tax purposes. In this case now you are getting grants, you are getting low interest loans.”
The permanent secretary ensured that registering is not a ploy to induce taxation.
“The first thing to come to their mind is that they want the information to tax,” he said. “We are not taxing farmers now. We want to incentivize them to produce. The 1.5 million is trying to aim at another challenge in agriculture. So, this is what we are doing now to relieve that.”