From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Cedric Roy Liburd (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Cooperatives, Lands and Housing of Saint Kitts and Nevis)

Mr Chairman, Heads of Delegations, Ministers of Agriculture, Non-governmental Organizations, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
I bring you greetings from the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, and from the Honourable Prime Minister, Dr Denzil Douglas, who could not make it to the Summit today.

I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate the people of Italy and the Director-General of FAO for this Summit, which is being held during this week. Mr Chairman, I wish to congratulate the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the excellent contribution it has made during the five years since the last World Food Summit, in 1996, to the third world countries and especially the small developing states of the world.

Although there is still some way to go to attain the target of the World Food Summit, it is my hope that FAO will continue its efforts to achieve a world free of hunger. Mr Chairman, the Report given by the Director-General of FAO has indicated that we have not achieved our goals set in 1996 to reduce the 800 million people worldwide suffering from hunger and poverty, five years later.

Mr Chairman, what went wrong over the last six years that has caused us not to achieve our goals? Is it that our focus has changed since 1996 from ending hunger and poverty to one of larger budgets for arms and ammunition throughout the world? Is it that our national governments have not devoted more money to hunger and poverty in our countries?
Mr Chairman, these two questions I wish to ask this Summit today.

The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is committed to the goals of the World Food Summit programmes and, with the assistance of FE, is attempting to develop a comprehensive agricultural diversification programme. However, our agricultural sector has been experiencing difficult times recently.

The sugar industry, which dominated the country's economy for the last 300 years, with a sugarcane monoculture is presently under serious pressure as a result of high costs of sugar production, declining sugar output, fluctuation of sugar prices on the preferential sugar markets in Europe and in the USA, and the declining value of the Euro in which sugar is paid on the European markets.

Efforts to improve the productivity of sugarcane and the output of rough sugar and molasses are being tried with only limited success. Moreover, in recent years, during the period 1995-1999, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has been struck by five major hurricanes that have had debilitating effects on our country.

With the tourism sector now assuming the role of the lead sector of the economy, there is a need for a vigorous programme of non-sugar agricultural production through a national programme of agricultural diversification, with strong linkages between the agriculture and tourism sectors. The promotion of non-sugar agricultural production has two principal arms.

Firstly, to reduce the current high annual food import bill that reached US$ 31 million in 2000. Secondly, to attempt to make up for the reduction of the contribution of sugar agriculture to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In addition, the agricultural diversification programme is expected to contribute significantly to the achievement of food security and raising the income of the rural communities in St. Kitts and Nevis, especially of the farmers and fishermen, and to the alleviation of poverty.

A recent poverty assessment survey has indicated that some 30 percent of the population of the country may be living below the poverty line, and 11 percent may not earn enough to meet their dietary needs and face serious food insecurity. However, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is presently giving great emphasis to the agricultural diversification programme through the distribution of suitable lands for farming in an effort to expand crops including fruit trees and livestock productivity, and is making water available for agricultural use and especially irrigation of crops and livestock consumption.

Further, the extension services of the Department of Agriculture are being expanded and strengthened to accelerate food production. An agricultural marketing thrust is also being developed to ensure that food production is market-led.

The fisheries sub-sector is also being emphasized, and a new fisheries complex is in the late stages of construction with the aim of increasing fish harvesting and distribution. Indeed, for over a decade, efforts have been made to promote agricultural diversification through the development of food crops and livestock farms, but progress has been slow and the agricultural marketing infrastructure has been weak.

It is essential that the non-sugar agricultural sub-sector achieve need considerable expansion, particularly in the production of out of season vegetables. To do so, however, a major thrust in irrigation is required. It is also clear that non-sugar agricultural production needs to be increased to meet the needs of an expanding tourism sector, which is growing rapidly in St. Kitts and Nevis and which requires a constant supply of high quality produce. In addition, the production of fruit needs to be rapidly expanded, together with agri-businesses, as a significant component of to the food import bill comes from juices and beverages.

Critically, the fisheries sub-sector requires important facilities and equipment at fish-landing sites. While there has been some progress in this area, there still remains a substantial need to upgrade the kind of fishing boats and equipment that would allow fishers to harvest the pelagic species.

In relation to the livestock situation mentioned earlier, I wish to point out that the Caribbean Amblyomma Project, funded by FAO, has been very successful in St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Kitts has been declared provisionally tick-free. As a consequence, the ruminant population in St. Kitts has shown resurgence and the beef industry has been revitalized.

On behalf of my Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, I would like to express deep-felt gratitude to FAO for the prompt response to a request for assistance in the development of a non-sugar agriculture programme and the promotion of the national agricultural diversification thrust, especially in the design of an irrigation programme for rapidly expanding foodcrop production. Certainly the positive assistance received from FAO, in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), in mounting the recent mission to the Federation is deeply appreciated.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.
In order to accelerate the development of the agricultural sector and enhance food security for the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, we are seeking the assistance of international agencies in the areas of finance, technical assistance and irrigation equipment. Such assistance would enable the country to achieve the following: increase foodcrops and livestock production and productivity by promoting good agricultural practices and by using improved technology, particularly in the practice of irrigated crop farming; development of the fisheries sub-sector with improved technologies; enhance national agricultural infrastructure; significantly improve post-harvest handling and develop agricultural marketing, including the distribution of produce; implement a comprehensive soil conservation/environmental protection programme; improve the access of farmers to credit; strengthen the human resource and institutional capacity to accelerate ongoing programmes in farmer training and professional-level training in relevant agricultural disciplines, and to encourage the development of farmer organizations, which include cooperatives.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I reaffirm the commitment of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis to press ahead in its agricultural diversification programme, to help alleviate poverty and achieve food security for the people of the country. We request the support of relevant international agencies and institutions in helping us to achieve such objectives.

Mr Chairman, if we are committed to eliminate hunger and poverty throughout the world, we must decrease our spending on building up of arms and ammunition. We need to create a world of peace, love and unity. The world was created for men and women to enjoy and not for our people to be starved to death.

Mr Chairman, whatever problems caused us not to achieve our goals in the last six years, it is time for all of us to commit ourselves to eradicate hunger and poverty from the landscape of this earth.

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