A shipment of produce under the UWP initiative

Housing Minister, Reginald Austrie has said markets were always available for agricultural produce from Dominica to the French markets and United Workers Party (UWP) Senator Thomson Fontaine cannot take credit for selling agricultural produce to Martinique.

Recently Fontaine told Dominica News Online (DNO) the UWP has kept a promise made during the last general election to seek ways in revitalizing the agricultural sector in Dominica, and in that regard, the party was able to open up the Martinique market in December 2016. He said seven shipments of produce have already been sent to the French island.

But Austrie said markets had already been secured in Martinique.

“We have always said and the Prime Minister is on record saying there is, in fact, a market for agricultural produce both locally and regionally…we are not in the international markets yet, we will deal with that at a later time,” he said. “The Prime Minister has gone further to demonstrate that he, as a farmer, cannot supply the local market with fresh fruits and vegetables from his farm, his backyard farm, and has been encouraging the people of Dominica that please, there is a market out there let’s go into production.”

Austrie continued, “The point is there has always been a market, so Thomson Fontaine now cannot take any credit for selling huckstering agricultural produce to Martinique.”

He mentioned further that Dominica had established and identified markets in Guadeloupe and Martinique when Matthew Walter was Minister of Agriculture.

“And even when Matthew Walter was Minister of Agriculture he had established and identified markets in Guadeloupe…,” Austrie stated. “It was Matthew Walter who led a delegation to Martinique and secured markets in Martinique for everything that Dominica could produce.”

He stated, however, government has difficulty in filling that market with produce.

“Every week Honourable Ian Douglas is screaming, I want 800 pounds of yams, I want 200 pounds of cucumber, PM can I get some sweet peppers?…and the Prime Minister has told Ian, boss, you must go on the radio and ask the Dominican farmers to produce because you do not have sufficient produce for the recent park-houses that we established,” Austrie stated.

He said the Prime Minister in his budget address thought it was necessary to put some $10-million into the AID Bank for the farmers.

“Because he recognized that there were certain challenges being faced by the farmers and they needed that boost and that incentive,” Austrie said.