by Tricia Simon
Grenada’s history and traditional wealth is based on being an agrarian nation where agriculture and agro-processing were key drivers.
The Grenada we know today was built on agriculture where the former slave masters planted crops such as cocoa, nutmeg, cane, and spices. These were then transported to Europe for processing, then sold back to Grenada as consumer goods. Who remembers Milo and Ovaltine?
Imagine, when we think of chocolate production what comes to mind are the European countries, “The top 4 countries responsible for the production of the world’s chocolate are Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Poland. These 4 countries account for over 40% of the world’s total chocolate exports. Interestingly, none of the major producers of chocolate are themselves top sources of cocoa (Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria), nor are the major cocoa-producing countries also major chocolate manufacturing centres.” We all grew up eating chocolate produced primarily in Europe. Today, there are several Grenada-based chocolate companies including Tri-Island Chocolate, Jouvay Chocolate, Taste ‘D’ Spice and Belmont Estate with many producing award-winning chocolates.
As dey say, is we mud dat good, plus duh clean fresh air and little pollution due to environmental groups such as Grenada Green Group.
The industrial agriculture we see today where the majority of our food is produced on a commercial level only took root during the 1920s, as prior to that farmers grew crops sold close to home. The “backyard garden” known as a kitchen gyarden was an integral part of normal life within the Caribbean. Recently, the backyard programme was introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to stimulate an increase in agro-processing and agriculture.
Are we to use the village life adage where “it takes a village” coming together to raise a child, and use it to feed the nation? Mary plants beets, Patsy cucumber, Peter carrots, then have a farmers’ market on Saturday to barter and trade to feed the village healthy, locally grown produce. We live in a global village where commercial farmers would find enough external markets for their produce from our large diaspora and other individuals.
Has the time arrived for a shift in the dynamics of agriculture where we see an increased focus on agro-processing? The answer is a resounding yes. Another agro-processor, Garvin Glasgow of G-Links Ltd. who focuses on api-culture stated that for agro-processing to be successful a critical factor is for the players in the various industries to collaborate for sustained growth and capacity building. Grenada has a high unemployment rate at approximately 20.97%. Thus, as with any industry, human capital is vital for development. We need to work together as a nation to ensure this happens.
Economic pundits have continually stated that manufacturing is a key economic driver of growth, “Over the years, manufacturing has played a vital role in the economic growth and economic development of several countries around the world. It has also helped change the status and facilitated the progression of several countries to a higher status in the development rankings, especially low-income countries. Particularly in increasing the Gross Domestic Product of these low-income countries.”
We have to use wat we have an, wat we have is agriculture and fishing in regards to raw material for manufacturing. We doh have oil, plus the reality is that due to climate change we need to shift away from fossil fuels due to the harmful effects on the environment. From production, transportation to usage, the whole chain is mired in some not-so-savoury facts. Renewable energy such as solar and wind should be invested in heavily to help foster the growth of agro-processing in Grenada.
On 3 November 2022, a meeting was held between several agro-processors and CEO Peter Andall of the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB) in regard to developing the agro-processing industry. Several points came out of this meeting including:
- The need for agro-processers to band together and form a collective voice to be able to lobby the government and other stakeholders to assist in developing the industry. With this, several individuals have come together to start an entity to move the industry forward
- Adopt and/or strengthen the various legislation in regards to Geographical Indication for items such as cocoa, nutmeg, soursop etc., patents and trademarks
- The need for agro-processors to adopt international standards for labelling, product input and industrial standards in regard to production, food handling and safety
- As with any emerging sector of economic growth, subsidies is important. The previous government provided concessions to the tourism and hotel industries. Thus, it would be financially prudent for this government to provide subsidies to the agro-processing industry
- A constant complaint is that goods made in Grenada are too expensive, thus methods to lower the production costs which would then be passed on to consumers is required
- Raw materials including items such as coconut oil for the soap and cosmetic industries and other agricultural inputs need to be focused on for sustained growth and lower input costs
- Packaging and labelling are very expensive, thus purchase the common items in bulk
- Licencing of agro-processors so they can obtain the necessary discounts, training etc
- Additional workshops are required such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCAP), marketing, packaging and other training tools for various parts of the value chain
- Assistance in product development and the process to bring a product to market
- Sales and export — the use of our trade missions to host trade shows, cultural events to highlight our local produce. The reality is that agriculture and agro-processing are crucial tools for foreign exchange. Thus, it is important that several times per year our consulate and embassies highlight our locally-made products within their respective host nation. A dinner party with only Grenadian products would be a simple start
- And yes, how do we as a nation move forward to assist MNIB to meet its mandate “To provide an outlet for local produce to encourage the production of local crops”? Let us put all the not-so-nice things aside and work to see MNIB flourish, because is all ah we in dis
The opportunities for agro-processing are endless and typically include the following currently undertaken in Grenada: beauty and wellness, meat processing, dairy products, fruit and vegetable processing, grain mill products, sugar mills and refineries, wine, fruit juices, beer, cocoa, chocolate, sugar/fruit confectionery, bakery products and prepared animal feeds.
The areas for development include starch and starch products, baby food, chips, baking powder, yeast, condiments, flavours and fragrances, mustard, vinegar, edible salt refining — (why are we importing SALT when we are surrounded by the sea; sea salt is a healthy option) — tea and coffee processing and packing.
Non-food products include essential oils, biofuels, biopolymers, bioplastics, paper and paper products, wood and wood products, textiles, wearing apparel, rubber products, footwear and leather and leather products. (I only wear local leather slippers bc dat is wha we make hey. Ah went to ah meeting wid ah Minister, she watched meh slippers, I watched her and we both remained silent…ah goin local).
For a while — and I hope this is no longer true — there was the urban myth “dat farmers doh make money”. Wat ah lie. Yuh ever see deh chilren, dem is lawyers, doctors, engineer and dey have five ah dem. How dey paying for dat? Is only because farmers does make money.
Tricia Simon is an Attorney-at-Law called to the bar in the State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the Province of Ontario, Canada. She is also an Agro-Processor with La Bonté and Mt Parnassus Plantation