Friday 8th June, 2018 –Government and the Chinese have finalized an agreement on the Chinese funded Agricultural Technology Project.
The Agriculture Minister made the disclosure today (Thursday) amidst concerns being raised in recent weeks by some farmers and political figures about the draft agreement which was leaked to the public a few weeks ago.
At a meeting Minister Dean Jonas held last month with the National Coalition of Farmers, the agriculture minister assured the group that the project, the details of which had not yet been finalized, held great prospects for the local farming community.
The Government of the People’s Republic of China has identified the Chinese-based Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture Company (LPHT) as the entity which will technical and other assistance valued at approximately ten million Eastern Caribbean dollars to the people of Antigua and Barbuda. Contrary to claims that the Government is giving lands to any Chinese entity, Minister Jonas highlighted the fact that the donation will greatly enhance the overall productivity within the local farming sector. Minister Jonas made it clear that, “It was never, and is not the intention of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, under this project, to disenfranchise any farmer nor to assign any crown lands to any country, including China”.
The agriculture minister noted that the project will hire legal residents of Antigua and Barbuda to perform the required tasks on the experimental farms under the supervision of the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) with guidance from nine (9) Chinese technical experts. Local farmers will be provided with training, advice and the opportunity to gain firsthand experience on the experimental farm, so that they could duplicate the practices on their own farms. Local farmers will also benefit from reduced waste of produce through improved post harvest production and tissue culture products among others.
The agreement also details the amount of land being identified for inclusion in the project. The Agriculture Minister said that while it is intended that 4,000 acres of land will be the desired outcome, this will take place in a phased manner, with the initial portion of 1000 acres being gradually increased to the desired amount over the three-year life of the project. Presently in Antigua and Barbuda, approximately 1000 acres of land are under agricultural production with an estimated 100 acres being farmed under public sector initiatives and the remainder under private sector production.