Agriculturists calling for government support

POSTED: 07/4/16 8:15 PM

St. Maarten News —Although there is a huge threat by the invasive monkeys, the green iguanas and African snails which have been destroying crops on the island, there is still an initiative to have proper facilities such as an agricultural station on the island. This became clear when representatives of the sector gathered at the WIFOL building last Thursday evening.

Although the attendance of the meeting was very low, there were lively discussions on how to cope with the interference of the monkeys and green iguanas on how the deal with what is being considered as “pests” who invade the local farming grounds of the island. There were many suggestions on how to deal with these animals but it was made clear that it is urgent to find solutions to deal with it since several farmers have been complaining for years about how much they have lost in crops.

There was also the discussion on the invasive tilapia where the female fish lays about 500 eggs each time they spawn, which multiples the fish population at an enormous rate each year and destroys the local bass population which is said to be native to St. Maarten. However, although manager of the Nature Foundation Tadzio Bervoets said that the fish in the Great Salt pond are not edible and not fit for human consumption, agriculturist Joslyn Richardson argued that the fish only lay their eggs in fresh clear water which is responsible for their increase.

These fish not only eat and destroy the local fishes but also are found to have contaminants such as mercury in their system making it unfit for human consumption.

While the discussion of revamping the agriculture sector is the way to go, Ras Bushman who also is involved in agriculture said that they cannot do it alone. “Unless we have an agriculture station with the necessary legislation we will not be able to reach anywhere,” said Ras Bushman. He explained that in the past there were no African snails, monkeys, iguanas. Coupled with low rainfall, the stakeholders are arguing that they are inhibited to move forward with the project. “It is getting much more difficult since we do not have the means to control all these animals,” said Ras Bushman.

Meanwhile, agriculturist Joslyn Richardson who is also seeking to be involved in local political process stated that if he is elected to office he will ensure that a Ministry of Agriculture is established. With a functional Department of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries. He also plans to promote the establishment of a “market place” in the Philipsburg area where all vendors of imported provisions along with local gardeners can sell their goods to the community.

He also plans to promote a turnover tax break to stimulate the persons in this industry to be involved in micro-commercial agriculture and craft production projects. He further plans to push for legislation to tax the” ground water” which is being pumped from the wells in the St. Peters area and use it for agriculture. He explained that the wells in the ground produce about NAf 2,000,000 annually and the government receive no taxes for it.

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