The Keith Mitchell-led government has reneged on a promise made to nutmeg farmers to provide them with an EC$2 million soft loan at the low interest rate of 1%.
A source close to the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association (GCNA) told THE NEW TODAY that the commodity body had done everything requested of the organisation by the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration to get the loan but a stumbling block has now been put in its way.
He said the regime is now demanding that GCNA will have to merge with the Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA) in keeping with a decree of the government for the loan to be provided to nutmeg farmers.
He pointed out that any merger will take years to materialize and as such the loan that was promised to GCNA by the Mitchell government is now in jeopardy.
“The Grenadian public believe that we got the money but we didn’t get the money. The money was never given, the loan was never given. We fulfill all the conditions they say and then they turn around and say you must merge. It is just deception, deception – that’s what’s going on,” he said.
Nutmeg farmers have ratified a decision taken by the Board of Directors of GCNA that the merger between GCNA and GCA can only happen after the issue of the assets of both commodity bodies are settled.
The Mitchell administration has also been pushing for liberalization of the industry in order to allow foreign entities to get involved in the sale of nutmeg, spices and cocoa products.
According to the source, the only money that GCNA and GCA received from government within the past year is a grant of one million dollars to help them finance their operations in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that presently, GCNA has a cash flow problem and is experiencing difficulties in paying farmers for their product.
“They are getting plenty nutmegs, you have to dry it for 6 weeks before you can think of exporting it, so it takes time to get cash,” he remarked.
Government has recently formed a new 6-man committee to discuss the issue of merger and liberalisation with acting Chief Magistrate Teddy St Louis once again appointed to head the team.
The talks ran into difficulties in 2020 when farmers objected to the contents of a draft bill on merger and liberalisation which gave sweeping powers to the Minister of Agriculture to appoint the Directors to serve on a new company to be created to run the nutmeg and cocoa industry.
The bill also gave the minister the power to grant licenses to persons and companies for the export of the two commodities.
The move came against the backdrop of reports coming out of GCNA that U.S trained lawyer, Olinga Mitchell, the son of Prime Minister Mitchell, is known to have an interest in the liberalisation of the industry.
The young Mitchell is part of a company known as Chimera Holdings which was set up to purchase and sell Grenadian nutmegs and spices in Europe.
The company is believed to have gone into liquidation around February 2020 and still owes GCNA EC$144, 000.00 for nutmegs delivered to it.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the Cocoa association has taken a decision to pay just over 200 farmers a small bonus for Christmas from sales generated at the Chocolate factory in St. Mark.
An industry official said that $105, 000.00 in dividend payments will be made available with most of the farmers getting a cheque for EC$500.00.
‘It’s something for the Christmas,” he said.