Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 20, 2016 (SKNIS): Farmers in St. Kitts will soon have a Photo ID (Identification) card along with the added privileges of import duty waivers, subsidized prices, and access to workshops, which are among the advantages that registration at the Department of Agriculture provides.
Director of Agriculture, Melvin James, who was the featured guest on the government programme “Working for You,” elaborated on what crop and livestock farmers would be entitled to when they register during the months of June and July. He said that once farmers are registered, the card will be issued in one week and it signifies that the individual is a bona-fide farmer in St. Kitts. Import duty exemptions on vehicles, equipment and so forth would then be available once the appropriate application procedures are followed.
Mr. James went on to explain that when it came to the purchase of fertilizers, feed and animal medications, some of which are available at the Department of Agriculture; the registered farmers would be able to buy the products at concessionary rates, while the rest of the public would have to pay the regular price. He added that the registry of farmers would then be a pool of names from which to choose participants for workshops, recipients for donated material, for prospective projects and for compensation when there is unforeseen loss due to natural disasters or even damages caused by wild animals.
Mr. James informed that the data collected during the registration process would be basic personal information along with information about the business. He affirmed that it would be solely for the data collection purposes of the Department of Agriculture.
“This information is entirely for internal purposes, and I don’t think that we will collect sensitive information,” Mr. James said, confirming that the data will be used for no other reason. “The very basics about the person, so that you can identify the person, and then very basic information about what they are involved in in agriculture, so that you can classify, analyze, and make decisions. We stayed away from too much of the additional data so that right away they (farmers) can see that it’s not much more that can happen with this information other than for agricultural purposes.”
The agriculture director explained that a similar process had been undertaken quite a few years ago and it was appropriate to create a new farmers’ registry. This he said would be done by sensitizing farmers during the conclusion of May, while June and July would be the actual registration period.
“What we are doing here is to reach the entire farming community, which I am sure is 500 or so persons and growing,” Mr. James explained. “In fact, when we do this exercise, then we’ll get a full appreciation of the exact numbers, but based on our information to date, our rough information, we know that it’s in that region. The crop farmers basically spread island-wide in what we call the farming belt, which is generally speaking just below the steeper slopes. The livestock farmers, we have in certain designated areas – Conaree, Belle Vue, Tabernacle, there are pockets where they are concentrated.”
Mr. James revealed that the collection of the data would also provide a pool of information on farmers’ demographics, age categories, categories of enterprises and so forth.
Farmers were invited to go to the Department of Agriculture Conference Room, at La Guerite, during the two-month period, to fill out an application form. This can be done by the individual or with the assistance of staff of the Agriculture Department, if desired. Registration will take place between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. He explained that after June and July farmers would have to make an appointment to receive assistance with registration.
After completing the registration form, the farmers would then take a photo. In one week, farmers can return for their photo ID which will be valid for three years.
The farmers’ registration process would also involve a new schedule of fees for the registered farmers, which is greatly reduced from what it was previously. Mr. James revealed that Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Eugene Hamilton, had graciously agreed to forgive all land payment debts of farmers, which he described as a “Fresh Start.” Going forward, farmers would have to pay an annual free, that would be the same for both crop and livestock farmers, but would vary depending on how much land was being used. Persons farming five acres or less would pay $150 per year, six acres to 20 acres $300 per year and 21 acres and above $500 per year. The payment of the fee would also entitle farmers to services provided by the Department of Agriculture. When registered farmers return to collect their cards, they are encouraged to bring along the required fee.