Agriculture will be ok - Tufton
Published: Thursday | September 24, 2009
Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of agriculture and fisheries, receives two bottles of hot pepper from Rosemarie McMaster of Antigua after the opening ceremony for the Caribbean Regional Science Technology and Innovation Workshop at the Knutsford Court Hotel yesterday. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has admitted that the cut in the Budget is a setback for some agricultural programmes.
"Clearly, it's a challenge, no one wants their budget to be cut, but we all understand why it has to be," the minister disclosed in an interview with journalists at the opening ceremony of the 2009 Caribbean Regional Science Technology and Innovation workshop yesterday.
The Supplementary Estimates, tabled on Tuesday, show the recurrent Budget for the agriculture ministry moving from $2.8 billion to $2.7 billion.
Prepared for challenge
Dr Tufton said there were some realities that the ministry would have to confront, but it was prepared to take on the challenge.
"We have an approximately 20 per cent cut which is average across the board, but what we sought to do is to preserve areas that we considered to be critical for the short term, which we didn't want to compromise on," he argued.
The vital areas of the ministry that Tufton said were spared were the programmes that give the support for consistency of output, such as the extension services in the Rural Agricultural Development Authority.
The critical area of post-harvest management was also unaffected. Instead, a number of initiatives were announced to develop post-harvest infrastructure, which include marketing, packaging houses and banana-ripening facilities.
But the fruit-tree programmes, part of the administration's food-security strategy, the national school gardening programme, and plans to uplift some fishing beaches have been revised.
"It is really a delay, as we intend to pick up again, but we have to keep focused on the most important areas for now."