I refer to the letter in the July 19 issue of the Kaieteur News headed ‘The Agri Sector in Region One needs urgent attention’ written by Desmond Fernandes, MP.
The Ministry of Agriculture has a national programme to provide technical support and other interventions such as the provision of planting materials in times of need to affected regions, when farmers are affected by natural disasters such as floods and drought. Farmers in Region 1 are no different and have been the beneficiaries of recent assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture.
For the purpose of keeping members of the public informed, the ministry would like to respond with the following facts:
Fact 1: With reference to the nursery, emphasis was placed on the production of planting materials for farmers who were associated with the Secure Livelihood Programme. A total of 15,000 passion fruit seedlings were produced and distributed to interested farmers. Our emphasis has been and will continue to be based on demands for planting materials. In fact in excess of 2000 avocadoes had to be shipped to farmers in other regions because there was no demand in Region One. Nevertheless citrus and avocado seedlings are being produced. Farmers are being asked to make bookings at the nursery in advance so that their request can be satisfied in a timely manner.
Fact 2: Following surveys and numerous outreaches by technical and other staff within the region and from Georgetown, it was revealed that no more than 5 acres of farmland was affected by flooding in Aruka.
However, a quarter acre of ginger has been reported as being lost. No farmer in Arukamai has 5 acres of ginger. Small quantities of ginger were given to farmers who wanted to get into production so that they could generate planting materials on their own. Additionally some farmers opted to get turmeric production and as such received adequate planting materials.
Fact 3: As part of the Ministry of Agriculture Grow More Campaign through the spices programme, in excess of twenty thousand (20,000) pounds of ginger and turmeric were distributed across Region One, rather than five pounds as the PNCR Member of Parliament referred to in his misinformed letter.
Fact 4: A quantity of seedlings and other planting/root stock is available at the Hosororo Station. Mr Fernandes deliberately sought to misinform the public by stating that limited seedlings and plant materials were available.
But he fails to recognize that seedling propagation is timely and perishable, and large quantities are available on demand.
Fact 5: A grim picture has been painted by the Member of Parliament by stating that the Region One agriculture station is “like a ghost town.” A photograph would dispel this falsehood.
Fact 6: This same year, 2011, about 20-25 communities received 15ltrs of Fastac, 7ltrs of Bestac, 50pks ant baits and vegetable seeds (cucumber, poi, pepper, cabbage, celery, and water melon). These items were uplifted by the CDC chairman/Toshao of the various communities; there is a list with names, addresses and phone numbers to substantiate this.
Fact 7: The Ministry of Agriculture held several outreaches and interactions with farmers across Region One and no farmer highlighted the insufficient amount of planting materials received. Further, Mr Desmond Fernandes was never present at any of these meetings.
Editor, the Ministry of Agriculture remains committed to supporting rural and hinterland agriculture development and will not be dragged into a debate by Mr Fernandes seeking to gain attention and political mileage.