Director in the Department of Agriculture, Melvin James

Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 27, 2020 (SKNIS): Director in the Department of Agriculture, Melvin James, during his appearance on ‘Working for You’ on Wednesday, February 26, publicly commended farmers in St. Kitts for a sustainable level of crops and livestock output despite the many challenges they faced.

“We give kudos to our farmers despite their challenges. They have been able to sustain a level of output that has been able to keep buoyant so that neither the hotels nor the supermarkets have had reason to import.  While sheep and goat numbers and total yield would have gone down slightly, cattle, for example, the total output went up, and we are happy for that,” said Mr. James.

He noted that farmers in the livestock sector have much to be thankful for.

“The other bright light in the livestock sector is that we do not have any record or any official knowledge that eggs were imported into the country. We have been thriving for some time to be self-sufficient in a guarded way because we know that egg products like egg beaters and other things to substitute for eggs are still imported, but we are talking about the table eggs,” he said. “We have not issued any documents for importation for two consecutive years.”

Equally important, Mr. James said that 2019 was a good year for the farmers and the department on a whole.

“Our total output in 2019 saw an increase of 37 percent over 2018 and for me that is excellent. In the four or five years before, we were marginal, we were borderline, and mostly because of uncertainties in the weather and our challenges with monkeys and again, even the difficulty of lack of resources,” said Director James. “Through it all, we think that we had much relief in 2019 for two main factors. The monkey programme that was halted for a good two or so years, we were able to resume it in a limited way. Limited as it was, we were able to take out about 800 monkeys and we think that we saw a surge because of that.”

Additionally, the other factor that contributed to the relief in 2019 was the assistance given to farmers via the Government Hurricane Relief Initiative in the sum of one million dollars. Mr. James noted that some of the farmers would have reinvested and those, plus the Department of Agriculture’s very own input “in trying to work with the farmers would have helped them to show an increase.”