The future direction of the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association (GCNA) could be determined on Tuesday when a new Chairman for the commodity body has to be selected as there could be a possible attempt by the Keith Mitchell-led government to keep out Leo Cato from being returned as Chairman of the association.
There are reports circulating in the industry that government which has already submitted its three representatives to serve on the 9-member GCNA board might be seeking to woo two of the six members elected by farmers at the recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the association to put it in a majority position to influence policy decisions.
Cato has been described as one of the members of the board offering very stiff resistance to plans by government to bring about the liberalisation of the industry and the merger of GCNA with the Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA) into a new body called the Grenada Nutmeg & Cocoa Association (GNCA).
According to a well-placed source, at least five of the six directors elected by farmers at the recent AGM are inclined to support one of their own from GCNA to hold the Chairmanship of the commodity board.
THE NEW TODAY spoke to one of the six GCNA representatives who was identified as willing to support government’s three nominees to help unseat Cato but the official denied involvement in any clandestine move against the current leadership of the organisation.
The official admitted receiving approaches but turned them down on the grounds that a member of the association and not a government representative should always be at the helm of the association.
Another of the directors selected by farmers at the AGM stated that he would hand in his resignation if Cato was removed from the Chairmanship position in any underhand effort involving the Mitchell-led government.
One of the three government nominees to serve on the GCNA board is Byron Campbell and he also denied that he was involved in any plot by government to try and seize control of the affairs of the nutmeg association.
Campbell, a former Chairman of GCNA, said that he accepted government’s invitation to serve on the body once again since he felt that with his knowledge and managerial experience he could help with the development and growth of the association in the interest of farmers.
However, Campbell is not assured of a place on the GCNA board as some farmers are planning to call on government to once again withdraw his name as a Director.
Campbell along with chemist Leonard St Bernard and Dr. Kelvin George are the three government nominees selected to serve on the board.
About three years ago, Campbell along with St. Bernard were withdrawn by government as Directors as farmers strongly objected to their inclusion on the Board of Directors.
Apart from Cato, the other five persons elected by farmers to sit on the board are Pastor Christopher Williams, Matthew George, Naline Joseph, Wayne George and Victor Ashby.
Talks between government and GCNA on the merger of the two commodity bodies have now reached a stalemate.
Sources told THE NEW TODAY that at last Monday’s session, Cato informed the Head of a government-appointed Merger Committee, Derick Charles that the talks will have to be put on hold as he did not have a mandate from farmers to discuss the issue.
A source said that Cato indicated that the farmers had passed a resolution at an Area meeting that there should not be any merger of GCNA and GCA.
Cato is said to be planning a meeting with nutmeg growers in the next week to seek a new mandate on the discussions taking place at the level of the Merger Committee.
This newspaper understands that cocoa farmers held a meeting on Wednesday and agreed to the merger of the two bodies but under certain conditions.
According to a source who attended the meeting, the farmers agreed to the merger but without liberalisation and for the current monopoly situation to remain, as well as for the assets of GCA to be divided and shared up among members before any merger talks can begin.
In addition, the cocoa farmers called for restriction to be placed on the powers of the Minister of Agriculture, Yolande Bain-Horsford to appoint the entire Board of Directors as was contained in the first draft act to merge GCNA and GCA which has since been altered.