Antigua’s Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Dean Jonas said that the government of Antigua and Barbuda is deeply committed to continued success of farmers in Antigua and Barbuda.

He reiterated the point at the Official Launch of the Education and Training Component of the Agricultural Project between Antigua and Barbuda and China at the Multipurpose Center last night (FRI0

The National Component of the Farmers Food Security Training Programme is being hosted by the experts of the Yuan Longping High-tech Agriculture Co. Ltd and is expected to have a transformation effect on the agriculture sector in Antigua and Barbuda.

The agriculture Minister revealed that the ministry of agriculture will be making some major policy decisions geared towards the success of farmers.

The substantial benefits that will be available to registered farmers range from access to agricultural lands and training for registered farmers.

“All farmers registered with the ministry of agriculture will have the right to apply for enrolment in the training programme hosted by the ministry including those offered by the Yuan Longping High-tech Company Ltd.” All farming businesses which are registered with our local authorities and confirmed by our relevant departments as bonafide members of the sector, will have the option to apply for 25 year leases on crown land, once there is availability,” Minister Jonas stated.

He said that the Ministry of Agriculture will also subsidize the cost of land preparation of approved farms, through a scheduled system established and managed by the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC).

In further highlighting the importance of the agriculture sector to the growth of the economy, Minister Jonas noted that agricultural development should not be viewed as an option.

“We must treat the stark reality that the level of our food importation as a nation is akin to chronic economic disorder which requires immediate treatment to avoid a slow and inevitable death.”

He continued, “the state of our food security should be released with the same urgency as a public health alert; our response should be rapid, production goals set and funding realigned to address the food production deficit we are facing as a nation.” Once we stay the course, the results will be positive for our farmers, consumers and the nation as a whole.”

Permanent Secretary Colin O’Keiffe said that he hopes all will get an opportunity to benefit from this collaborative effort between Antigua and Barbuda and the People’s Republic of China.

He urged them to use this initiative to closer examine their methods of operation and to consider the possibility of new approaches which would lead to effectiveness and efficiency and more income for stakeholders of the agriculture sector.

Acting Director of Agriculture, Cheryl Edwards in her remarks, noted that the ministry is delighted to partner with the Longping High-tech Agricultural Company Ltd.

She said that it brings the opportunity for sharing and transfer of technology which would have wide reaching effects in the agricultural sector

An exciting Senior Extension Officer Owolabi Elabanjo reminded the farmers that they have much to gain from this great initiative.

He said that the development of agriculture in collaboration with the Chinese agricultural experts is a major move in the right direction.

Elabanjo urged the farmers and the nation to support their own.

“We have to change our habits of consumption, let us eat what we grow; let us support what is local, I can see a lot of families here tonight and we need to support each other.”

Remarks were also shared by Fitzmorgan Greenaway who represented the farming community.

He that as farmers, they are always supportive of education and training.

“We do not think that we have arrived, we always think that there is room at the top, we always keep aspiring,”

Chinese Project Leader Yin Jianquing also spoke about the project and noted that he is happy to be involved in such an important initiative that will greatly benefit and promote local farmers.

Chinese Ambassador to Antigua and Barbuda, His Excellency Wang Xianmin said that it was an honour for him to be a part of this level of agricultural cooperation between Antigua and Barbuda and China.

He said the cooperation project started in April last year and will last for three years.

Ambassador Xianmin said that he was proud of healthy crops produced by the Chinese agricultural experts that were on display from the ongoing agricultural programme. He assured the audience that the Chinese agricultural programme is selfless. China’s aid for this project is about 7.8 million EC dollars.

Training will begin next week as a number of farmers expressed interest in the collaborative agricultural development programme.

The function was well attended by members of the farming community and other special guests.