Monday 20 May, 2019

Agriculture Minister Bowls a Googly at CSA

Agriculture Minister Ezechiel Joseph has deftly deflected a request from the Civil Service Association (CSA) to meet with him to talk about the imminent closure of the Saint Lucia Marketing Board (SLMB) and plans for its replacement.

Joseph, who acknowledged receipt of the CSA’s 10 February 2019 letter addressed to him requesting the meeting, pointed the CSA’s executive back to the same persons they had already met prior to requesting of him a meeting.

According to the minister, his permanent secretary and representatives of the Marketing Board are well placed to share information on the government’s restructuring plans for the entity.

CSA’s General Secretary Claude Paul had written to Minister Joseph earlier this month requesting an audience with him.

Paul made that request after meeting with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and representatives of the Marketing Board, the very same persons Minister Joseph requested of him to meet.

The CSA wants the Minister to sit with them to discuss the future of the employees of the Marketing Board who will soon be on the breadline.

The Marketing Board is one of three or four statutory bodies the Allen Chastanet administration has targeted for either closure or a merger with another entity stating that in some cases the purpose for the creation of these entities no longer existed.

The first of such entities to which the government exercised its decision to shut down was the Saint Lucia Tourist Board. The government took the decision to close the Board immediately after it assumed office in June 2016 and established in its stead an entity called the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, claiming that such a move has resulted in the reduction of administrative expenses from EC$8.6 million in 2016/2017 to EC$5 million in 2017/2018.

Two other entities government has shut down to date are Radio Saint Lucia and the Saint Lucia Fish Marketing Corporation which officially shuts down 1st March 2019.

The Saint Lucia Marketing Board was established in 1968 to solve food marketing deficiencies which existed at the time, noted the prime minister.

He said the primary purpose of the Marketing Board was to encourage agricultural production and facilitate the distribution of farm produce from farmers to final consumers.

Over the years the explosion of supermarkets and farm-produce purchasing and distribution companies, coupled with direct interactions between hoteliers and farmers, had resulted in considerably diminishing the role of the Marketing Board in the country.

Chastanet said consecutive years of losses had rendered the Marketing Board virtually obsolete, along with farmers dissatisfaction and a host of other complaints and problems, therefore it had to go.

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