Export growth and stronger food security will be the focus of a new project in Saint Lucia supported by the European Union (EU) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). The project entitled “Enhancing the Capacity of Stakeholders in the Agricultural Sector to Supply Quality Products in new Markets” will ensure inclusive and sustainable development along the agriculture value chain. CDB’s Vice President of Operations Mr Isaac Solomon stated that, “This exciting new initiative, facilitated through the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) Standby Facility for Capacity Building, is designed to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people of Saint Lucia and the Caribbean through strengthened trade and increased economic opportunities,” adding that the project reflects an investment in the transformation of local agriculture and agro-processing.
Setting the context for the intervention, Mr Anthony Herman, President of Belle Vue Farmers’ Cooperative indicated that there is long term value to be gained from the activities which include training for farmers and agro-processors in good agricultural and other practices through an arrangement with the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, the construction and upgrade of pack houses and provision of a refrigerated truck to minimize food loss.According to another beneficiary, Ms Naila Mangal of Mangal Trading Inc., “Today, I want all of you to take stock of how this project will benefit me, a young, female, agricultural entrepreneur. I am excited about the possibilities that are ahead, all thanks to the commencement of this project. This project will open new doors not only for me but for other female farmers and exporters.… These are the types of projects that we need to push the sector forward, and I am confident that it will do just that…. The work is only just beginning, but the benefits will last a lifetime. ” Saint Lucia’s Minister for Commerce, Manufacturing, Business Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs, the Honourable Emma Hippolyte, who spoke at the launch event in Saint Lucia expressed pleasure that the project commenced, “The farmers of Saint Lucia, have for a very long time carried the weight of this country, and it has been through their toils that our people have progressed to where they are today .” she said. “Strengthened by the resilience of the farmers, the government was keen to match that resilience with advancements in processing, technology and standards with continuous diversification beyond bananas in mind. The project which targets fresh produce for export markets, is welcomed and timely.” The European Union’s Project Officer, Mr Sheldon Jackman , stated that “The results are expected to go a long way in advancing the competitiveness of the private sector; improving the infrastructure and quality standards of the agri-food system, while building the capacity among the agriculture value chain actors in St. Lucia.” Further, it will deepen access to international markets for products emanating from rural farming communities in St Lucia which in turn will lead to economic empowerment through job creation, particularly for women and youth. The project valued at EC925,862, is being implemented by Export Saint Lucia as part of its mandate to boost agricultural exports. It concludes in 18 months. Export Saint Lucia’s Chief Executive Officer Ms Sunita Daniel indicated that “ At the heart of all exports, whether goods or services, are the people who make them happen. The team at Export Saint Lucia strongly believes in regular and relevant capacity building. It is in the country’s best interest that we seek out these types of opportunities for our clients. We are especially pleased with the capacity building component of this project which will be delivered virtually, reaching farmers and other stakeholders wherever they are.” The Standby Facility which is financing the project is a EUR 8.75 million resource managed by CDB which offers opportunities to 15 Caribbean economies to grow trade, deepen integration and economic involvement, impact competitiveness, market access and exports by implementing targeted projects in thematic areas. There are over 20 Standby Facility projects being implemented across the region.