November 06, 2007
Director of Agriculture on Nevis Dr. Kelvin Daly, said the use of coconut mulch in every area of farming was superior and safe and had several benefits. He advised farmers to use the local mulch offered by his Department over other imported varieties. He made the comment on Tuesday November 06, 2007, during an interview with the Department of Information at his Prospect Office.
“It is a superior type of mulch, it is the most expensive if you were to purchase in the United States of Europe and the reason why it is so expensive is because of its properties. It’s superior in water retention, maintaining colour, preventing soil erosion and it is a natural repellant for snails,” he said.Dr. Daly said many farms had not yet been convinced of the safety of the product and continued to purchase the less superior imported mulch.
“In some respects the response is a bit guarded because there is the concern that the disease is still present in the stem but that is impossible. We would not be so irresponsible to do that. It is totally free of any disease it is a matter of science. In that case the bug dies before the tree dies,” he said.
Notwithstanding, the Agriculture Official said that Department had sold large quantities to landscaping designers and to some extent to farmers. He named Cliff Dwellers Estate, Montpelier Estate and Mount Nevis Estate as three areas that had made large purchases and personal orders had also been filled for clients in St. Kitts.
He said the Department had planned to engage in an aggressive marketing strategy to get the public to understand that the product was safe for use on their plants through a brochure which would include a number of client’s testimonials of the mulch’s texture and quality.
The Department had begun its mulching operations in July 2007 after the deadly lethal yellow disease, which had affected hundreds of trees, had left behind a large number of dead coconut tree stems.
Dr. Daly said the Department was forced to find an economical and ecological means to dispose of all the coconut stems that had been generated as a result of the disease. The project was designed to limit the impact on the Long Point Landfill and to recycle the coconut stems.
In response to a question with regard to the market, Dr. Daly said the Department did not plan to curtail the importation of mulch but was hopeful that the public who utilized it would understand the greater value for money in the product offered by the Department of Agriculture.
At the moment, other varieties of imported mulch are sold according to Dr. Daly twice the amount per cubic foot than the seven dollars per cubic foot of coconut mulch offered by the Department.
“Returns are increasing slowly but the Department expects to see the present stock of imported mulch finished then there will be more sales of the local product. We are looking at closing the import market but we are hoping not to, we first have to convince people that this is a superior product,” he said.
At the start of the project, the Department had invested in a new industrial shredder from the United States, a grab loader and cane carts from the St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Cooperation during liquidation for harvesting and transportation the stems to help the project.
The revenue generated from the sale of the mulch he explained was placed in the Consolidated Fund as a cost recovery effort so that the ministry of Finance could see tangible returns on the investment. Notwithstanding Dr. Daly said the farmers would be the ultimate beneficiaries of the project.
“I the long run the farmers will benefit because we have a product they can use directly and funds generates will get back to them in the form of workshops and various concessions,” he said.
The coconut mulching is done on a site at Pinneys Estate, an area that had felt the effects of the devastating lethal yellowing disease. Dr. Daly said the Department had also embarked on a coconut replanting drive to replace the affected trees.
He said the Department was in the process of looking into the purchase of a resistant variety of coconuts to replant in the affected areas. They had already purchased a green house for propagation which had arrived on the island and would be assembled in December. “The objective is to remove stems and replant them as quickly as possible,” Dr. Daly said.