The Ministry of Agriculture’s plans to restructure the operations of the Central Marketing Corporation (CMC) should have been implemented years ago, says Franz deFreitas, the United Progressive Party (UPP) Candidate for St. John’s City South, and he calls this last-minute intervention a joke.
DeFreitas was responding to a news article in which Minister of Agriculture Samantha Marshall says that plans to this effect are moving forward.
For many years, farmers and consumers have been complaining that the original objective of the corporation – which is, to provide an avenue for farmers to sell their products – has been cast aside.
In its original concept and operations, CMC would purchase produce (fruits, vegetables, meats and poultry) from local farmers and market it, thereby allowing farmers to concentrate only on production.
However, in recent years, CMC has been accused of competing with these farmers since it imports products and sells them at more competitive prices, thus forcing locals out of the market.
But if the opportunity is given to local farmers, deFreitas says, they would be able to meet the requirements and make the country self-sufficient in several products, as it now is with eggs.
Minister Marshall reports that a group is set to meet with regional experts, who will assist not only in improving the operations at CMC, but at other agricultural entities, such as Diamonds Estate.
Marshall says the Ministry has recognized the complaints of farmers – that CMC has wandered from its original purpose of providing an avenue for farmers to make sales, and not for them to compete with the government-run entity.
Meanwhile, the Minister has come in for criticism from some residents, who say that every time she speaks she is “assessing” an issue and there is no progress.
One woman complains that Marshall is acting like she was just appointed the Minister of Agriculture; she adds that there has been political interference at the Corporation over the years, and this has been its downfall.
Instead of helping farmers to export their produce, CMC is importing more goods than the country’s supermarket, a man charges.
Another resident asks whether the restructuring of CMC means that it will stop importing certain meat products, including pork, which is being sold at a much lower price than local livestock farmers are able to offer.
It was suggested that Sir Robert Hall, whose brainchild the Corporation was, must be turning in his grave.