The Director of Agriculture Jedidiah Maxime wants local farmers to up production of some crops in order to be able to export their produce throughout the entire Caribbean region.
Speaking as Antigua and Barbuda celebrates World Food Day with the rest of the world today, Maxime said he is hoping that in the not too distant future, farmers will be able to produce more onions, carrots and butternut squash so the island can take greater advantage in markets in the southern Caribbean and the northern part of the Leeward Islands.
Carrots and butternut squash are being shipped to the US and British Virgin Islands already.
Maxime said the Ministry of Agriculture is presently undertaking a commercial demonstration of onion production “totally mechanised, from planting all the way up to harvesting.”
This will be done on 25 acres of land, which is presently being cleared, and it is to demonstrate the complete mechanisation of the onion crop.
“And what we want to be able to do is to demonstrate that we have a lot of farmers in Antigua who have in excess of 25 acres of land that can go into onion production and be totally mechanised.
“We have a million dollars worth of equipment that has been acquired that is lying out there waiting to be used, so we are going to demonstrate it…and let the farmers see how it is done and try to bring them on board, because what we want to do is not only supply our demands for onions in Antigua, which is about two million pounds annually, but we want to supply onion to the whole OECS,” the agriculture director noted.
Maxime said onion is a good starting crop for the initiative because none of the other OCES countries produce onions.
“So this shipping initiative when you come and bring dasheen to Antigua we want to full the boat up with onions and send it back, so this is the kind of thinking we are bringing to bear,” Maxime said.
He said Antigua and Barbuda wants to be able to market produce to the Windward and Virgin Islands as well.
Some farmers have begun to sell pumpkins to Dominica to meet the food demands in that country left by the ravages of Hurricane Maria.