Finding local consumers for St.Vincent food imports

Vincentians in the United States, particularly in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut areas, could benefit from a new fresh-food initiative organized by the country’s trade minster, Saboto Caesar.

The project involbves the export of fish, fruits and ground provisions, with the hope of adding an assortment of drings and herbal “bush” in the future.

New York-based Vincentian businessman Shane Brown, who hails from the agrarian Park Hill community sees the project as a major initiative for the development of the loalcommunity.

“It will help build the national economy of the country as a whole and also help to boost local economies in the villages and towns of the country, while providing local farmers and fishermen, and women will find a market for their produce,” Brown said.

“This project will give them confidence to produce for the external market,” Brown added. “They know that they will be paid immediately for their produce.”

The agriculture minister, who spoke about the initiaive while on a recent visit to New York, supported Brown’s views. This procect, he said, “will help St.Vincent and the Grenadines to move away from the mono-crop approach.” Banana, the country’s number-one export, he added, “will always play an important role in the agriculture sector in SVG.’

“However, there is renewed thrust towards diversify, with greater emphasis on root-crop production. The export strategy of SVG will target markets such as traditional regional markets in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and the Virgin Islands; Venezuela, pursuant to an oil-for-food compensation mechanism established by Petro Caribe through ALBA; Europe; and the United States.”

The export of food to the United States will bring social and economic development benefits and will also benefit the diaspora. “This project could help to eradicate poverty among farming communities. It will also benefit the Vincentian diaspora in the United States, by bringing fresh Vincentian food to them,” Brown explained.

Caesar is of the view that “the export of fish and non-banana commodities to the United States market will bring significant rewards to our farmers, fishermen and women, traders both in SVG and business persons in the Vincy diaspora in the United States, and the regular transfer of healthy food from SVG will ensure that we strengthen the cultural ties and connections between Vincentians in the United States and Vincentian at home.”

The minister noted that our food is part of our culture and he is making a clarion call to Vincentians in the diaspora in the United States to play their part in these renewed efforts to buy local food produced in Georgetown, South Rivers, Greiggs, Mesopotamia, Sandy Bay, Calliaqua and other villages and towns in SVG.

So far, the project is showing success. The food was sold out quickly when the shipment was put on the shelves at Food Saver, 402 E 83 Street in Brooklyn, owned by Orin Tucker. Demands are already being made to export food to Canada, the United Kingdom (UK), and Caribbean territories where Vincentians reside.

Bernard Daisley , a Vincentian living in New York said, “I went there, got myself some food. I have been eating real food since the weekend. Let’s advertise and get others to go and buy. Great customer service awaits you. Let’s support our own Vincy food.”

Luzette King, host of the radio programme in SVG called Global Highlights, aired on NICE radio, added “With all the scare about genetically modified wheat, we can do with this as an alternative. Let us try to make this a worthwhile effort.”

Another Vincentian, Cecelia Daniel-Brathwaite , proclaimed: “That is great news! I always buy Vincentian when possible. I have to support my country. We have to support our economy! There is a preponderance of products from other places and scant supply from us. My money going back home whenever possible!”

Caesar explained that “The new thrust in export will see a combination of processed, semi-processed, and commodities in their primary state exported to external markets. The export in processed and semi-processed goods will allow our farmers and processors to benefit significantly by harnessing significant returns to be had by the benefits of the value chain.”

Furthermore, “we will see not only the export of peppers, for example, but pepper mash, vacuum packed peppers and pepper jellies; and vacuum packed ground provisions and chips produced from ground provision will become an integral part of our export in the near future. Currently, Vincy Fresh and National Properties, through Vincy Crisp, have embarked on negotiations with the ALBA Bank to establish a major chip factory in SVG,” Caesar said

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