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Nutmeg farmers are preparing for a fight

Prime Minister Mitchell (r) and his son Olinga (l) who is known to have an eye on making money from the nutmeg industry

Nutmeg and cocoa farmers in Grenada are expected to put up stiff resistance to plans by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to privatise the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association (GCNA) and the Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA).

An industry official told THE NEW TODAY that government has once again floated the idea to them about its plans to set up a private company to take over the affairs of both organisations.

He said that the details about the private company have not been circulated to either GCNA or GCA but that the legislation is apparently being drafted by the Office of the Attorney General, headed by Guyanese lawyer, Darshan Ramdhani.

He stated that the Mitchell-led government is trying to dissolve GCNA and GCA and is seeking to use the ordinances governing the two associations which place a lot of powers in the hands of the Minister of Agriculture.

According to the source, one of the industry ordinances came into play when the Grenada Co-operative Banana Society (GCBS) was dissolved by government over a decade ago after it ran into serious financial difficulties.

“I think if we are not careful this thing will happen to both GCA and GCNA because the Ordinance still points to the minister having the authority,” he said.

The source pointed out that it will be “a travesty” that farmers will be denied thousands of dollars by government from their hard-earned investment in the GCNA Complex that is now bringing in a lot of money to the association.

The complex, he said is now becoming “a gold mine” for farmers since nutmeg body is now collecting rent in excess of $170, 000.00 a month from the various businesses which operate from there.

“This is something that is going to hurt the farmers if you take that away (the money) from them,” he remarked.

According to the official, the Cocoa association is also making headway with its own diversification process after years of dwindling revenue.

He referred to a half-a-million dollar restaurant which was just set up by GCA at the Chocolate factory in Diamond, St. Mark to compliment the plant.

He said that the cocoa farmers on the island stand to lose their investment in the restaurant if the Mitchell-led government proceeds with its plans to privatise the industry.

The source pointed out that there are number of issues to be resolved for any move to take place towards privatisation by the NNP regime including the status of the employees in both GCA and GCNA.

He said: “My main concern is Grenada is already struggling because of lack of critical mass. We have found ourselves after (Hurricane) Ivan (in September 2004) struggling to compete on the world market.

According to the official, prior to the devastating hit on the industry by the hurricane, the island was producing 2000 tonnes of nutmegs per year but was now down to 1000 tonnes annually.

“…We don’t have the numbers to compete on the world market even as we stand now. When you allow people to export their own nutmegs – how do you collectively market Grenadian nutmeg because the big estates would have their own contacts to sell?

“What happens to the small man? What happens to the ordinary person who goes and sell 10, 20, 30 lbs of nutmegs literally every other day to buy food to feed their family? We have not been able to sell nutmegs since March in GCNA but we continue to buy the nutmegs from farmers because we understand if we don’t buy, the nutmegs would spoil and the farmers won’t have an income.

“So we buy it because we know at some point we would be able to sell. Now when you privatise, I want to know if the private investor is going to buy nutmegs when he cannot sell.

There have been reports circulating since 2018 of a link between Olinga Mitchell, the son of Prime Minister Dr. Mitchell and the island’s ambassador to Russia, Oleg Pavlovich Firer, and his company Star Capital on seeking to export Grenadian spices into Europe.

Star Capital has its headquarters in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and also offices in Moscow.

Firer is also associated with My Caribbean trade centre, which is said to have been established to promote bilateral trade between the Caribbean, Russian and Eurasian markets, and also has offices in Moscow.

Olinga Mitchell is listed as the managing partner of Chimera International, a firm located in the Netherlands, which is said to be involved in the distribution of spices and food products in Europe and lists its major products as nutmeg and cocoa.

Chimera is also listed on Firer’s My Caribbean website as an associated business.

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