New banana plan
The Dominica government on Monday outlined a new package of assistance, amounting over time to about EC$4 million, to help revitalise the banana industry as well as the agricultural sector.
To start, the Agricultural Industrial and Development Bank (AID Bank) will issue EC$1 million (US$370,370), made available by the state, in a 50:50 split of loans and grants to farmers.
"This will go towards farm rehabilitation, replanting and expansion according to the needs and willingness of the farmers," said Agriculture Minister Mathew Walter.
"We expect that about 535 acres will be improved to higher levels of production by year end."
The intervention by the government is the first phase of a comprehensive banana recovery and sustainability project, designed also to support farmers who are opting out of banana production as well as to assist others acquire necessary input to develop their farms, the agriculture minister said.
He said another EC$500,000 (US$185,185) would be made available to farmers who are unable to secure funds under the 50/50 loan at the AID Bank.
They will also get plant material, technical assistance, new technology and financing for adaptation to new farming systems.
"These programmes amount to some EC$4 million (US$1.4 million) and will support farmers who are opting out of banana production to alternative crop production," he said.
"The benefit of these programmes to farmers and our country is also being manifested with the banana sector recording significant growth in 2009,"
The Cabinet has approved the continuation of the subsidisation of fertiliser "which will ensure that the cost of fertilisers will not exceed EC$45 (US$1.66) per 25-kilogramme bag," said Walter.