Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs , Hon. Dean Jonas and Permanent Secretary, Mr. Colin O`Keiffe met with Department Heads last Friday, to discuss among other things, the Marketing Plan for Selected Agricultural Products- Antigua and Barbuda, produced by Mr. Elbert Johnson, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) International Consultant- Agriculture Marketing Economist.
The Marketing Plan emerged from a request made by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), having recognised the unsustainability of the agricultural sector and the urgent need to address the food security needs of the nation. The Plan is envisaged to serve as a basis for the formulation of programmes and projects to establish the enabling environment for a competitive and sustainable agricultural industry, serving the food demands of the local markets including the hospitality sector, and the export markets.
Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture as well as a wide cross section of stakeholders ably facilitated the process to develop the Plan. These included the Head of the Statistics Research and Information Technology Department within the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Michael Rickaille; Agricultural Assistant, Mr. Brent Georges; Head of Extension, Mr. Sereno Benjamin; Deputy Director of Agriculture, Ms Cheryl Edwards; farmers, major buyers, suppliers and all the major agricultural related institutions.
The market study, which was completed in January this year, found that for the period 2010-2017, the Annual Food Import Bill showed a steady increasing trend from 216 million EC dollars in 2010, to 282 million EC dollars in 2017.
Most notably is the quantity of meat and meat products imported during the period (2010-2017). The study revealed that these accounted for 20% of the total food import bill with an associated cost of 50.18 million EC dollars. More specifically, over 50% of the value of meat imports was chicken, accounting for 12% of the total food import bill.
The study further revealed that imported vegetables, root crops and fruits combined, accounted for an average 39 million EC dollars annually, representing 19% of the total food import bill.
Among the list of selected vegetables, imported onions was the major contributor to foreign exchange spending, accounting for an average of 1.4 million EC dollars to import an average of 378,140kg of onions annually during 2010-2017.
The average landed price of imported onions was EC $3.85 per kg, while the cost of production of local onions is estimated at EC1.26 per kg, highlighting the potential competitiveness of local onion production among several other commodities covered by the study.
The marketing strategy was developed using the value chain approach and seeks to minimize the problems of inconsistency of supply to the market segments and organize small farmers in a production schedule to meet purchasing patterns of buyers. Thus promoting a market led approach to production.
Operationalization of the Marketing Plan will be facilitated by a series of pilot projects which would form the basis for future expansion and implementation of the Plan.
Currently plans are being discussed for the execution of the pilot projects.