Agriculture is identified as among the lead productive sectors in the Vincentian economy, both in terms of primary production and agro-processing/value-adding. Its development will be based on a combination of private, cooperative and state as the hub of economic activity within a policy framework framed on the World Bank’s definition of “good investment climate” that is, “the set of location – specific factors shaping the opportunities and incentives for firms to invest productively, create jobs and expand”. The areas for programmed investment in agriculture are predetermined by the policy strategy outlined in the Medium Term Economic Strategy where the government is committed to diversifying the economy, including the agriculture industry around bananas, through strategic intervention and institutional cooperation. This approach is intended to actively create an enabling environment to drive entrepreneurship among farmers, fisher-folk and other stakeholder groups to significantly increase agri-food production, processing, and marketing. The outcome is to generate formal employment, rural income, and improve food security and foreign exchange earnings.

In 2004, gross agricultural output contributed 8.8% of gross domestic product (GDP), valued at US$255.06. Agriculture is also important to the continued development of rural areas, where approximately 42% of the population resides, with roughly 10% or 12,000 persons active in some form of agricultural activity. Agricultural production is also significant in ensuring a reasonable level of the food security in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A wide range of vegetables and fruits are emerging as important export commodities, albeit with seasonal, climate-related variability. Since 2004, the sub-sector, along with root crops (dasheen, eddoes, and sweet potatoes) experienced greater share in the regional market. However, the difficulties experienced in agriculture, mainly the erosion of preferences and the consequent declines in banana exports, has resulted in St. Vincent and the Grenadines being classified as a net importer of food, valued at US$37.8 million in 2003.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Strategic Plan for Agricultural Diversification and Development 1997-2006 is currently being revised to chart the development of agriculture and agri-business over the long term. The revised document will focus on reducing risk in new investment activities. The new agriculture will be developed on a policy platform of agriculture diversification around bananas. The policy points towards the modernization and enhanced competitiveness of the agricultural sector to achieve the following policy objectives:

  • Export development based on selected commodities including fisheries and other bio-products to generate foreign exchange earnings.
  • Food and Nutrition security through the production of selected commodities including fish and livestock production.
  • Import substitution which involves the production of special commodities and products for import replacement, saving foreign exchange, increasing linkages with the tourism sector, creating employment and the development of export base agro-industries.

The development challenges to the food, agriculture and natural resources system in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are no different from other CARICOM states. There are clear synergies and a dovetailing of the agricultural diversification and poverty reduction strategies with the broad objectives, priorities and strategies for agricultural modernization and transformation, food and nutrition security and reversing the trend in food imports of regional, hemispheric and international initiatives. Indeed, opportunities exist for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to benefit from the OECS Agricultural Policy Framework and Strategic Plan, and consequently, the sub-regions commitment under CARICOM’s Interventions to Alleviate the Key Binding Constraints to the Agricultural Sector (Jagdeo Initiative), the Caribbean Fisheries Regional Mechanism (CRFM), the UN FAO-led National Medium Term Investment Profiles (NMTIP), the Summit of the Americas Agriculture Agenda 2015 and the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially Goals 1, 3, 7 and Goals 8.

1  Extracted from the National Medium Term Priority Framework for FAO Assistance - St. Vincent and the Grenadines Draft document, 2006

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