The Government of Grenada has no interest in managing the affairs of the Grenada Cocoa Association or the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association.
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Keith Mitchell said Government’s interest is in ensuring that the associations operate more efficiently by merging operations and that farmers are given an opportunity to derive more benefits from their investment.
In his address to the nation on Sunday night, the prime minister said the merger of the two commodity boards is a longstanding recommendation and the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated that it cannot be business as usual.
He said, “We must move speedily but with precision, to address the governance and management structure of the commodity boards, which successive consultancies have shown to be inadequate and archaic. It is said that in every crisis there are opportunities; this pandemic has provided a crucial opportunity to modernize the operation of our commodity boards, to strengthen the institutional capacity and viability of the governance structure, liberalise the market and improve the global competitiveness of our traditional crops.”
Dr Mitchell expects the proposed merger to bring greater financial returns to farmers as they will be at the forefront in managing their affairs. He said, “We expect the merger of the associations and liberalisation of the sector to lead to better prices for cocoa and nutmeg farmers while also allowing them a chance of real ownership and shareholding in the commodity board. As it is now, farmers do not own shares in the Grenada Cocoa Association or the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association. Government has no intention to take over the affairs of the associations but rather, we seek to empower the country’s cocoa and nutmeg farmers and to improve their financial returns.”
Both associations recently requested financial support from the government. In agreeing to provide price support payments for farmers as it has done on several previous occasions, the Government specifically required that the merger takes place to create greater efficiency in the overall management structure. Government has been criticised by some for trying to hijack the process but the prime minister gave assurances this is not the case.
He said, “As in numerous instances before, the situation highlights the need for urgent action to address the long-term financial viability of the cocoa and nutmeg associations and their ability to safeguard the livelihood of farmers. Therein lies the rationale for the proposed merger, which is a recommendation dating as far back as the 1990s. Unfortunately, years of inaction have paralysed the associations, leading to chronic and acute financial challenges, similar to the current situation, which necessitated yet another injection of capital by Government, to ensure the survival of the associations.”
Before the current moves towards merging the cocoa and nutmeg associations, the most recent attempt to pursue this was in 2017 when a committee, led by the current GCNA Chairman was formed to examine the pros and cons of the merger. In a six-page report, that committee cited many similarities such as farmer base, organisational structure, assets, liabilities and budgetary constraints. Further, this report recommended that Government play an active role in the merger and that farmers must be at the forefront.
To date, Government has initiated draft legislation that will guide the merger but this draft has not yet been reviewed by Cabinet.