St. John’s Antigua- The Ministry of Agriculture is anticipating getting a better handle of its agriculture produce, through the initiation of the Production Marketing Intelligence Service (PROMIS), which is tasked with assessing and recording the level of production on the ground.
The unit, which went out of commission in 2004, is now working in tandem with the local producers and farmers to ensure that food is imported in the country based on a needs basis.
Extension Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture Owalabi Elabanjo told OBSERVER Media that the food importers are now cooperating with the ministry in this regard.
“Most of them, before they bring in any import licence … they consult the ministry as to what is available and where can they get it and what is the cost attached to it and on our own part too we have been dealing with them through telephone calls on what is available and what they can bring in,” Elabanjo said.
Data from the field slowed around 2004, when the PROMIS unit went out of commission after its officers took the voluntary separation package.
Agriculture Minister Hilson Baptiste, in an earlier interview with OBSERVER Media, said that efforts were being made to revive the unit, but not without an uphill battle, given the conditions outlined in the Uruguay Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to which Antigua & Barbuda is a signatory.
This WTO regulation restricts any country, which is a signatory from free trade without proper statistics, and evidence to quantify the tariff on the goods imported locally even if it is to protect domestic agricultural services.
He insisted however that, the move to protect farmers would have to be in a “conscious way” in which warrants for imports are signed selectively. And the extension officer said this is being achieved.
“What we don’t have, we allow. So it has assisted in many ways and if it continues like this, I think the joy is there for our local farmers,” the extension officer concluded.
In 2011, statistic revealed that the ministry imports vegetable commodities to the tune of EC $32 million, while several farmers reported spoilage of local produce, due mainly to lack of proper storage and proper post harvesting facility.