Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs Dean Jonas said that the presentation of a set of agricultural equipment is a key component of a Chinese funded programme to develop agriculture and bring sharper focus to crop production in Antigua and Barbuda.
Minister Jonas made the remarks at the Handing-over Ceremony of the equipment to the Ministry of Agriculture at the Agricultural Development Corporation at Diamonds Estate earlier today (Tues).
The agriculture minister said that the donation of the equipment is timely as the ministry moves to take the agriculture industry to the next level through an Agricultural Technology Cooperation project with China.
“The project is comprehensive in that it provides opportunities for training for our farmers which have already started. We are going to be introducing efficient water usage and modern techniques in new crops and better existing crops, in enhancing our overall productivity in the sector and the economy as a whole. I expect no less than a transformation of the entire agricultural sector because of this programme, “the minister stated.
He said that the government, the ADC and the entire farming community are grateful to the Peoples Republic of China and the Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture Company for the equipment which will greatly assist in achieving food security.
Minister Jonas underscored the importance of modernizing the agriculture sector and improving productivity, efficiency and profitability of farmers.
“Farming must be seen as a business that generates profits for our farmers. That way, we will significantly increase our meats, our crops and our overall economic development. Countries that are economically developed are countries that are food secure. Policies and interventions must be developed to ensure that we accomplish these reforms. These reforms will encompass the full agriculture value chain; create additional business and job opportunities in the sector.”
He charged those who will be operating and benefiting from the new equipment to take care of them and use them wisely. He also wished the Chinese Ambassador all the best as he heads to retirement and noted that his hard work has paid off in Antigua and Barbuda.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Colin O’Keiffe in delivering his remarks, noted the major contribution the new machines will make to the enhancement of the agricultural sector.
“Indeed, as we utilize and maintain this impressive farming machinery, the skill set of our agricultural technicians would broaden and deepen and this will also be the case for our equipment operators, our mechanics, our supervisors and managers and other stakeholders as we all learn and practice to utilize continuously improving scientific methodologies in our day to day activities.”
P.S O’Keiffe said that the ministry will endeavour to keep the machines in good condition. He shared targets that the ministry focuses on as it serves its clients and develops the agriculture sector.
These include improving the livelihood and well-being of the population by increasing the production of fruits and vegetables and livestock within appropriate settings and empowering artisans of the agro-processing industry as well as other stakeholders through skill-enhancement initiatives.
Chinese Ambassador Mr. Wang Xianmin said that he was pleased to be part of the Handing Ceremony of the agricultural equipment and supplies under the project of China and Antigua and Barbuda Agricultural Technical Cooperation.
He said that with strong support from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, the three year project which officially started in May last year, will be completed in May 2021.
This project according to Ambassador Xianmin, aims to increase production of vegetables and crops, increase the earnings of local farmers and enhance the capability of food security in Antigua and Barbuda.
Some eight Chinese agricultural technicians are in Antigua for almost a year as part of this project.
They have tried 27 varieties of vegetables in six batches on the local soil and have successfully selected 18 varieties suitable for the soil and climate here.
They have also made many visits to the local farmers for information collection.
The Chinese experts have also given suggestions to scores of farmers for their vegetable plantation and the weekly training programs which are now in progress have been very beneficial to members of the local farming community.
The joint agricultural project also comprises the construction of smart greenhouses and shade houses.
Demonstration of plant seeding and related techniques of fruits and vegetables and studies in biological prevention and treatment of fruits and vegetables insect pests and diseases also form part of the project.
Antiguan and Barbudan agricultural technicians will also be invited to China for two sessions of agricultural technical training
The agricultural equipment which was donated included tractors, excavators and post-harvest processing machines among others.
Prayer and dedication of the equipment were conducted by Archdeacon Franklyn Reid.
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