Agriculture minister wants better price control for local produce

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Minister of Agriculture Hilson Baptiste has blamed price-gouging and not scarcity for the high price of some foods produced in Antigua & Barbuda.

And he is calling for a better price control mechanism so that fruits and vegetables are not priced out of the reach of the average consumer.

Baptiste said farmers must also realise there is great benefit in volume sales, rather than trying to get maximum out of every unit.

“For example, it cost us 19 cents a pound to produce onions,” he said. “Why then should local onions be sold for over $1.50 or $2 a pound? If it costs 19 cents a pound to produce onions why should it be selling for $5 and $6 a pound?”

The agriculture minister’s comments came against the background of complaints that locally produced provisions are too expensive.

He spoke to The Daily OBSERVER while touring the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute (CARDI) which hosted an open-day yesterday.

The agriculture minister commented on the current state of local food production, particularly sweet potatoes, and its future prospects.

“I expect by at least March, April next year, that Antigua will have a glut of sweet potato all over it. And we are now looking at ways to utilise sweet potato. And we have some export markets set up for sweet potato. The reason why CARDI is doing the research is to make sure we do the sweet potato in a more sustainable way,” he said.

Baptiste said the produce must be planted at the right time, in the right area of the island and added that “I am happy with the result of the research because it allows us to produce sweet potato in a more knowledge-based productive kind of situation.”

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