Dr. Govind Seepersad, Lecturer of Agricultural Economics at UWI: "We Need Some Kind of International Airport"
The modernisation of agriculture. No other topic has been talked about for so long by so many people in so many fora. Yet we continue to talk, to seek solutions, to plan the sector's revival. Yet agriculture in Dominica remains mainly subsistent, mainly underdeveloped, mainly underfunded.
Last week The University of the West Indies Open Campus Dominica added to the discourse on the subject when it invited Dr. Govind Seepersad, Lecturer of Agricultural Economics at UWI St. Augustine, to deliver the Eleventh Annual National Bank of Dominica Ltd. & UWI Open Campus Dominica National Distinguished Lecture on May 23, 2019 at the UWI Auditorium.
Speaking on the subject "Bridging the Exhaustion Gap: Hope & Reality for Agriculture" Dr. Seepersad said that if Dominica is hoping for a revival of its agriculture it needs to leapfrog into modern farming.
"Dominica has to develop a near modern agriculture industry," Dr. Seepersad said. "Let us not start with slash and burn. We know the technology, we know what exists; let us start with a near modern industry as close as modem as possible." That view was consistent with an earlier statement published in a document titled "An analysis of the Jamaican Fresh Agricultural Produce Industry"
"The fundamentals of domestic agriculture are changing with the increasing advent of globalization. Rather than 'quantity' dictating the pace in the marketplace today, quality and competitiveness are defining the new paradigm. In this regard, inefficient or non‐competitive producers would be wiped out of business as markets are opened and border controls are dismantled", he wrote. "In this regard, efforts must therefore be made to diagnose areas of inefficiencies among all producers. Once this is done, targeted responses must be made to remove impediments and increase efficiencies. Thus, the never‐ending quest for low cost and efficient agriculture must be the new order of the day".
At the UWI lecture last week, Dr. Seepersad advised Dominican agricultural planners that they need to target high quality products and set a time frame of about 30 years to get it done.
"Let us standardize what we do; we cannot do everything. Let us take a few things and do it well," said the Trinidad-born UWI lecturer who has over the past 25 years worked on a number of projects which focus on value chain assessments as well as market and supply analyses of fresh produce markets, both in the region and internationally. "I don't think anywhere in the Caribbean could produce enough avocado for the world. The Dominican Republic wanted to sell one container; today they are selling 30 containers a month. And it still have a shortage."
Dr. Seepersad said Dominica may need to rebrand its products to meet the demands of new markets niches and utilize Dominica's relatively abundant water supply.
"My question is how best we could use that good quality water available in Dominica," he said. "It may not be agriculture; it may be how do we convert water to wealth."
But to make agriculture thrive again, Dr. Seepersad said Dominica's agriculture must increase production, must improve postharvest handling and must understand freight and connections.
"We need airport, we need some kind of international airport," he said.