The Economic Development Committee held its monthly meeting on Monday, 2 October 2017. The following matters were discussed on the Open Agenda:
The discussion on the Water Subsidy Policy Paper resulted in a policy being agreed by the Committee to subsidise agricultural producers for the increase in water tariff by Connect Saint Helena Ltd from 1 October 2017. The subsidy to be implemented took into account comments by the Farmers Association on the tariff and the importance of ensuring that both small holders and commercial producers benefit equally through the subsidy policy, so that current levels of production are not adversely affected. However, there will be conditions that producers will be required to meet in order to be paid the subsidy to ensure SHG subsidy funds are used to support agricultural production. ANRD will be providing information about registering with them for the subsidy via the newspapers and radio stations.
An overview of the Fisheries Sector Strategy was provided to the committee and this provided a welcome insight into the direction proposed for sustaining and developing the fisheries sector. Implementation of the strategy will deliver benefits to St Helena's economy and all areas of the sector, including fishermen, commercial fish processing, local consumers and marine and fisheries management. The next steps involved in progressing the strategy includes discussion amongst the Fisheries Sector Strategy Group to agree options for financing the strategy and a three-year action plan to deliver the strategy's objectives
An update was provided to the committee in the form of a presentation on the implementation of the 2014-2020 National Agriculture Policy for the Island. Progress in the sector included producer collaboration with ESH and ANRD to implement partnership projects, innovative production methods being undertaken, increased commercial production, increased production of products where St Helena holds a competitive advantage such as salad cropping and egg production, moderate infrastructure improvements to support the sector and up-skilling in alternative production, apiculture and pest control. Whilst the committee was informed of moderate progress made towards achieving the objectives of the policy, they were also briefed on the challenges that remain in meeting the objectives and longer term outcomes of the policy. Key challenges included necessary investment, further infrastructure, improved agricultural land management, improved partnership-working between producers, seizing opportunities to add value and produce new products, further business and technical up-skilling across the sector and working differently for the sector to become more productive and sustainable.
ESH delivered a report for the month of August. Highlights included the limited take-up of the Home Slaughtering offering, although after additional advertising and media exposure, two enquiries came forward.
The Commercial Fishermen's Association received six applications for grant funding assistance and these six applicants have all been successful. It is expected that through the grant assistance program that the Commercial Fishermen's Association are administering, boat owners should be able to spend more time fishing thus creating a greater throughput. ESH, with the support of the Commercial Fishermen's Association are formulating a program that will help boat owners understand the basics of costing business operations, providing them with a better understanding of their day-to-day finances.
Discussions are also currently being undertaken with the Farmers' Association regarding future projects that look to innovate and enhance farming methods. Tremendous work continues across all areas of ESH, whilst encouraging residents to take advantage of the resources available at ESH.
An invitation had been extended to the Farmers Association. The Chairperson and one other member from the Association were in attendance, plus two other Farmers.
The two main issues discussed by this group was the implementation of the Water Subsidy and the Home Slaughter. Mr Darren Duncan was in attendance and Councillor Derek Thomas. Darren was able to give an update on the policy that had been endorsed earlier by the committee; a copy of this would be made available to the Association. Councillor Thomas led on the Home Slaughter and was able to update the committee on the outcome of the meeting he had chaired the previous week with Planning and the Senior Environmental Officer that saw agreement on a way forward with planning issues.
Other matters discussed were the urgent need for an agronomist and what support can be given to Farmers so they can get a bigger share of the market in competing with imports, training for basic Veterinary services, food security and what we can do to attract younger people into the sector, promoting farming and the Association at the upcoming Careers Fair and a proposal for an Industry Day later this month.
The committee undertook to look into how SHG could support the concerns raised and will report back.
The committee was also pleased to hear an update from the Director of Education on the feasibility of the reintroduction of Maritime Training being provided in the school curriculum. This was a follow-up to concerns over lack of uptake from younger people into the sector.
Source: St Helena Government