Charlestown, Nevis (May 01, 2007)
Director of Agriculture on Nevis Dr. Kelvin Daly said that the Department of Agriculture had considered the negative history associated with cotton production on the island and gave his assurance that the Department had would endeavour to ensure that the mistakes of the past would not be repeated.
Dr. Daly made the comment during an interview with the Department of Information on April 30, 2007 while he gave a progress report on the cotton project which is expected to commence on government owned and private lands shortly.
“A number of persons have expressed concerns regarding the wisdom of replanting cotton and I guess they have a negative history on cotton their opinions have been prejudiced when it comes to cotton. I guess the hard work involved, the low prices that were paid and [so] on but I am here to assure persons that in this project we have a sense of the history and we endeavour to make sure those mistakes of the past are not repeated.“In terms of the price, it is unprecedented. The price is remarkable because we are looking at a minimum of US$7 per pound of lint. I don’t think anywhere in our history we got that price for cotton, the same cotton that persons used to pick and show displeasure picking so that is the driving force,” he said.
With regard to the issue of labour, Dr. Daly said at present there are in excess of 40 immigrant labourers who worked on government owned estates and were willing to take up the challenge. He said he was convinced that once the department marshalled those forces towards the cotton project they would reap a good harvest.
In the event of a bumper crop, Dr. Daly said the Department would be willing to offer a “good price” to persons who would be willing to assist in the harvesting of the cotton and explained that the whole exercise was not meant to make “a killing, it is just to reintroduce a very valuable product on the market and with the assistance we anticipate from the Japanese, we are quite excited about it,” he said.
Notwithstanding, Dr. Daly said that up to 60 acres of government lands at New River and Indian Castle had already been cleared in preparation for planting and the Department was in the process of acquiring drip irrigation equipment, which the Japanese had expressed their interest in financing.
In addition, he said at least 14 farmers with an average of ½ to one acre which included one person with 2 acres, had come forward since the Department had announced in November 2006 its intention to replant cotton.
He said there had been one set back which pertained to the purchase of seeds from a supplier in Barbados and another in Antigua. He noted that a firm commitment was slow in coming and therefore Mr. Keithley Amory Deputy Director of Agriculture was scheduled to travel to Barbados to deal directly with the matter.
According to the Agriculture Director, the Department expected at least 1000lbs of seeds which would be shared with private farmers. Planting is expected to commence in late July to mid August. The staggered planting by extension, would facilitate a staggered harvest.
In response to a question regarding the harvesting technique that would be used, Dr. Daly explained that the process would not entail the use of machines since unlike the American cotton, the type of trees did not lend themselves to mechanical harvesting.
“The lint is irregular, the position of the balls of lint are irregular. The American cotton the trees are produced in a fashion that you can get the mechanical device passing which sucks the cotton off, ours does not lend itself to that and that’s why the cotton costs so much because of the labour involved,” he explained.
In the past, large plots of Sea Island Cotton were grown on Nevis but was later abandoned which Dr. Daly claimed was due to a lack of foresight and planning on the part of the authorities then.