Government realizes the importance of agriculture to the national economy and has developed an intense programme aimed at revitalizing the status of the sector in Antigua and Barbuda.
It is estimated that agriculture provides a source of livelihood, employment and home based income for about 10,700 persons, including 3,500 crop and livestock farmers.
The current administration has expressed a strong desire to see agriculture regain its rightful place among the productive sectors with its percentage contribution to GDP increasing to between 10.0 and 15.0 percent.
Many programs and policies designed to maximize production, reduce the cost of imports, ensure food security for our country and improve the lives of our people have been implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Among these initiatives is a home-based production program which entails the distribution of seeds/ seedlings and fertilizers.
The program has benefited approximately 1,500 households.
Youth In Agriculture Development
Government has also put plans in motion to develop a national youth farm. The Farm will comprise 100 acres of land to provide training and employment for Antigua and Barbuda’s future farmers.
As part of this thrust, Government has allocated 40 acres of lands at Pares to be divided equally among 20 prospective youth farmers.
The partnership, will foster increased production for exports and bolster employment career opportunities in areas of research, environmental & soil management, business management, and other technical areas within the Sector.
The entrepreneurship programme 'Youth in Agriculture' also serves as a platform to introduce new technologies and knowledge sharing, with a view to diversifying, modern farming practices, managing new strains of crops, facilitating the shift towards globalization (Climate Change, Bio Energy) and boosting / contributing to national food security.
National Food Production Plan
Focus, is now being placed on the production of sixteen agriculture commodities that could be produced and market competitively.
Notwithstanding the high food importation bill, the government has increased mechanized farm equipment, and applications of the appropriate technology to support the Ministry of Agriculture’s thrust towards sustainable food security.
The first of the three phases of the National Food Production Plan was implemented in 2009, and while the production target of 4 million pounds was exceeded by over one million pounds; lack of proper post-harvest and storage capacity, caused spoilage of the excess.
Government has since acquired a post-harvest facility to manage the quality of the harvested goods and increased production. Other actions have seen the merger of the Agriculture Development Corporation (ADC), and Central Marketing Corporation (CMC), to coordinate transition between production and marketing sectors. The latter is currently in the process of dialoguing with the private sector to obtain additional storage capacity to absorb production.
Moving Forward in Agriculture
Government has analyzed agriculture’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with hopes of an increase from 4 percent in 2010 to 12 or 14 percent by the end of 2012. This will enable small-scale farmers to take advantage of new market opportunities and the changing global demands for high-value food products.
The Central Marketing Corporation is also seeking to revive the Production & Marketing Intelligence Services (PROMIS), which operated as part of the department and the Ministry of Agriculture between 1980 and the 1990’s, respectively.
PROMIS will be instituted primarily to collect field data. These data will serve as guidelines to conduct strategic (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) SWOT analysis as well as highlight pressing needs, identify and assess key policy issues, resources and institutional constraints along the value chain.
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