|PetroCaribe community mills to boost agriculture|
|Friday, 10 August 2012 10:44|
Independent farmers may get a much needed boost from the recent opening of the Moulin de Timonette agricultural Community Center in Saint-Marc.
President Michel Martelly, Minister of Agriculture Jacques Thomas and Ambassador of Venezuela in Haiti, Pedro Antonio Canino González, were at the official launch of the new facility, which is the first of twelve communal agricultural centers planned for the Artibonite Valley region.
A similar facility, which includes three rice mills, a dozen tillers and other agricultural equipment, is planned next for the communities of Desdunes and Verrettes. The program, funded by Venezuelan and Caribbean oil loan agreement PetroCaribe, has also set aside over $9 million to build five more centers soon, with a capacity of 2.2 to 3 metric tons per hour.
The project, led by the Artibonite Valley Development Authority (ODVA), is yet another visible collaboration between Haitian officials and the Venezuelan-controlled loan program under President Martelly, which includes the Ti Manman Cheri mobile money plan and planned infrastructure development for the tourism sector in Jacmel. PetroCaribe now provides about 15 percent of the funding for the government's 2012-2013 fiscal budget.
At the opening ceremony, Ambassador González asserted the countries' enduring relationship, confirming that "on behalf of President Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan people, you can rely on the cooperation of Venezuela."
"Construction of [a] Community Center of Moulin is a great achievement in the Artibonite Valley," said Minister Thomas. "This is extremely important to [the] value to the [National] rice."
In addition to the new facility, the program will provide 1,500 bags of fertilizer for sale at reduced prices and 9,000 agricultural tools for free to local farmers. A management committee was also established to oversee the facility.The project hopes to enhance the region's resurging rice industry.
"Once, the Artibonite Valley produced 125,000 tons of rice," said Martelly. "In 2004, this figure is reduced to 65,000 tons. Today, it has increased to 90,000 tons, but it is insufficient, because every year we import 350,000 tons of rice."
Funding from the PetroCaribe agreement did fall under scrutiny earlier this year, with some concerns about the program's transparency as well as accusations that Martelly received some $2.5 million in kickbacks from a Dominican construction company in exchange for a construction project funded by PetroCaribe. The controversy however has not diminished the program's momentum in Haiti's nationwide reconstruction program.