The Government of Grenada is assuring cocoa and nutmeg farmers across the country that consideration is being given to addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their livelihood, and further, that this position was communicated to the representative associations just over a week ago.
The Ministry of Agriculture is therefore surprised by the claims contained in the April 27, 2020 press release issued jointly by the Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association and the Grenada Cocoa Association. Given the Government’s readiness to collaborate with the associations to secure the well-being of farmers, the press release is regarded as premature and not accurately reflective of the actual situation.
Essentially, the Ministry of Agriculture initiated discussion with the associations on March 26, 2020, on the potential impact of COVID-19, requesting a proposal to address the anticipated fallout. Since then, there has been an ongoing discussion on the subject, with the associations submitting the revised proposal on April 22, 2020, requesting Government assistance amounting to almost $4 million, to support operational expenses.
Without allowing adequate time for Government to examine the veracity of the proposal and determine its ability to provide assistance, particularly during this time of significantly reduced revenue collection, the associations have unfortunately resorted to public distortion of the facts, without any apparent semblance of accountability on their part.
The proposal was promptly forwarded to Cabinet for discussion at its meeting on Monday, April 27, 2020, and the National COVID-19 Committee is also this week considering the associations’ proposal for the purchase of products, in keeping with the recommended protocols for business operations.
Government’s financial support for cocoa and nutmeg farmers is not a new phenomenon. For many years, inadequate management of the commodity boards has resulted in Government repeatedly stepping in to ensure that farmers are not marginalised.
Government has also repeatedly called on the GCNA and the GCA to modernise their operations and develop the type of business acumen that would help to improve the potential for profitability and enhance the well-being of farmers. The government envisions that one of the key takeaways for many of us impacted by this unprecedented pandemic will be the value of more astute management that would better prepare us to face unexpected variables in our respective operational environments and withstand the impact of external shocks.
Notwithstanding, the Ministry of Agriculture reiterates its willingness to facilitate price support payments for farmers, as it has done for many years. The Ministry of Finance is currently reviewing the financial implications of this latest request, with a view to making a decision.
As previously communicated by the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Government of Grenada assures the population that while it is committed to providing relief to vulnerable sectors of the population, it is unrealistic to expect Government to be able to meet the needs of everyone, particularly as it too faces a significant reduction in revenue generation. Further, the country’s ability to survive the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic requires shared sacrifices and real and sustained partnerships, with responsible entities playing their part.
The Ministry of Agriculture has called a meeting with the associations and Ministry of Finance officials to discuss the proposal. The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance has also been invited to participate.