COCOA farmers in region four have expressed dissatisfaction with the level of interest government has been showing in the industry.
They made this point loud and clear, without mincing words, at a meeting with the Agricultural Supervisor of District four, Paul Francis last Thursday in Desruisseaux.
In an interview with The VOICE, Francis said the objective of the meeting was to chart a way forward for the industry and look at the problems the farmers are facing, such as the marketing of their produce.
He added that government was aware of some of their problems and as a result has provided them with plants and inputs.
According to him, measures need to be put in place for the industry to operate at a sustainable level.
Francis emphasized the need for the cocoa farmers to operate as an organization, rather than as individuals. This, he said, would enable them to obtain the necessary attention they required from the authorities.
However, the farmers have a different view as it relates to the interest government is showing in the industry.
So distressing is the situation to the farmers that the former executive of the farmers’ group has been non-functional for some time now and had to be replaced by an interim committee at the meeting.
Pat Joseph, a member of the former executive said the reason why they were non-functional was because the government was not showing any interest in cocoa farmers, which has frustrated them.
“Every time we hold a meeting with the farmers we have to be telling them the same thing. It was just a waste of time. Government is not telling us anything encouraging which we could tell the farmers,” he said.
Joseph said the European Union (E.U) has provided funds for the cocoa industry and the agricultural sector as a whole, but the money has not been used properly. He pointed to a fermentary which the government started in Desruisseaux over two years ago and which has not been completed, adding that the equipment is just lying in the building gathering dust while the doors to the building are rotting way..
Joseph said that the fermentary would have been of immense benefit to the farmers, noting that they had already begun to secure a market for cocoa sticks in America and England.
The farmers’ organization is now in the process of registering the association as a business under the name “Premier Cocoa Producers (St. Lucia) Ltd.
By Kingsley Emmanuel