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EU asked to support Caribbean large water, food distribution projects

OECS Ambassador to Brussels, Dr. Len Ishmael.

Dominica could soon be selling larger amounts of water and fresh fruits and vegetables to neighbouring islands when two projects, likely to be funded by the European Union (EU), get off the ground, according to a top sub-regional diplomat.

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) Ambassador to Brussels, Dr. Len Ishmael said the regional grouping has approached the EU to fund the development of two Pan-Eastern Caribbean businesses to build refrigerated warehouses at the ports of St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda to receive larger amounts fruits and vegetables from Dominica.

Ishmael said that project is expected to result in increased production, more jobs for young men at a time when 42 to 45 percent of young men are jobless. “We need to be able to do what we can to radically transform our economies in terms of adding value and providing a meaningful way of life for our young people,” she told reporters during the 2nd Caribbean Agri-Business Forum being held in Barbados as part of the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Business Forum.

The OECS envoy also announced that the EU has been approached to construct a barge to transport and pipe water into storage facilities at the ports of other Caribbean islands for domestic, industrial and agricultural usage. “That would then have linkages to rural formal, and informal economies but more importantly create jobs and entrepreneurship and deal with the whole issue of agri-business in a serious and meaningful way,” she said.

Ishmael expressed grave frustration at the fact that the tiny island nations remain undiversified and agriculture was now merely limping along especially since the removal of preferential market access for bananas to Europe.

She lamented that the Caribbean has been merely studying, assessing and talking about the need to engage in value-added production and create agri-tourism linkages for the past 30 years but “real action on the ground to the point of revue to farming communities has not been seen.”

Holding up an empty sugar sachet- the contents of which she used at her hotel to sweeten coffee- the policy maker said she continued to be upset that they are being imported from the United States unlike Martinique and Guadeloupe that have their own locally made sachets.

 With transportation being one of the major constraints facing, she said banana-producing Caribbean islands were eager to supply the fruit to the British Virgin Islands but it turned out to be cheaper for that United Kingdom dependency to source its supply from Chiquita and Dole aboard American Eagle.

The OECS Ambassador acknowledged there was a problem with transportation and recommended that a feasibility analysis for a ferry service to serve the nine-nation grouping.