CHARLESTOWN: Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture on Nevis, Dr. Kelvin Daly, says the reintroduction of sweet potato and other traditional staples to the diet of Nevisians would help the island achieve food security.
Dr. Daly made the comment in an interview last week with the Department of Information during a sweet potato workshop which was hosted by the Department of Agriculture in collaboration with the Taiwan Technical Mission (TTM).
“We are encouraging farmers to talk with us and see where they can fit in the program of sweet potato production because it is never enough. There is a big gap between supply and demand and we are (not) supplying that demand right now. We need at least about 15 to 20 acres continuously under cultivation. We have about half (of) that but it’s a long way from where we were in 2006 when we had less than one acre but we are moving in the right direction.
“We are also looking at cassava, we are looking at yams and we are looking at plantains and bananas as those targeted crops to introduce those staples back into the diet. As food prices go up for imported rice and wheat, soybeans and those kind of things, we have to make sure we are positioned in an arena that gives us a good chance of providing food for Nevisians to eat at a fair price,” said Daly.
The workshop was aimed at providing clarity to staff at the Department of Agriculture and farmers as to how sweet potato could be reintroduced in a manner that was profitable to farmers.
Daly said four varieties are being researched at the TTM for different characteristics from skin colour to the colour of the potatoes, their taste and texture for different uses and methods of pest control.
Daly said his country would have the capability to improve food security if Nevisians abandoned Westernized diets in favour of a diet of traditional staples, which could be produced locally.
“This (traditional staples) is something we can produce here on Nevis in abundance,” he said. “Since 2006 we have increased the acreage from less than one acre to up to 10 acres per year and we are still nowhere near satisfying the market. We are introducing varieties that come in sooner so most of the varieties that are under test are three month varieties, you don’t have to wait a whole six months or seven months like the old varieties for a crop every year,” he said.