D.Gisele Isaac, the Chair of the United Progressive Party (UPP), is condemning Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s blatant competition with local farmers and branding his new venture an enrichment scheme.
Over the last weekend, Browne used social media to promote his brand, advertising that locally grown produce and meats from “Farmer Browne” are coming soon.
After criticism from Isaac on Tuesday’s Eye on the Issues program, as well as heavy pushback from residents, Browne again took to FaceBook in an attempt to defend his venture.
Browne claims that he has invested the proceeds of an ECAB loan, along with personal savings, into his farm and says his primary focus will be the production of coconuts and avocados in order to reduce the quantity of imports.
Browne says he “felt compelled to lead from the front, to contribute to our food security and food sovereignty, to reduce our food import bill and to encourage more investments in this sector.”
He claims, further, that the “general crops that are produced will be shared” with his constituents and public institutions.
However, Isaac accuses the Prime Minister of being selfish, and of wanting to take bread out of the mouths of the poor while enriching his family and friends.
Browne says his Administration has done well by farmers by providing fertilizers, building dams, cleaning lands, and cutting roads to private farms. He adds that a policy was recently introduced to establish wells and place solar lamps on these farms.
Further, he states that farmers have also benefitted from duty-free and other tax exemptions on all agricultural inputs, including vehicles to be used in their business. But the farmers’ daily complaints do not support the Prime Minister’s claims, Isaac said on Tuesday.
A veteran farmer, meanwhile, says that those services, including tax exemptions and free fertilizer, were already in place under the UPP Administration.
In the meantime, Browne says that over 2,000 persons were allocated lands for farming, but many of these farms have been abandoned.
Therefore, he says that persons who are hoarding those lots should “start to produce, or turn them over to other [capable] and [committed] individuals who would like to enter the farming space.”
The UPP Chair says that Browne’s claim of wanting to reduce the food-import bill is only a ruse. Rather, she says, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are fulfilling their promise of creative enrichment.
Going further, Isaac is calling for residents to boycott Browne’s farm and produce.
Browne claims that he is taking a risk by going into farming, saying this venture and his home in Jolly Harbour are the only two projects he has undertaken since assuming the office of prime minister.
However, other lifelong farmers point out that his success is guaranteed. Given the technical support and profitable markets that are automatically available to Browne, they say he is “already too big to fail.”