Minister hopes for more efficient crop control and livestock services


Minister Sinon and his delegation touring the agriculture requisite section

Mr Sinon, who was accompanied by his principal Michel Nalletamby and the chief executive of the Seychelles Agricultural Agency Marc Naiken, was welcomed to the plant protection section by principal officer Randy Stravens.

The plant protection section – which currently has a 16-strong staff -- is the unit that controls import and export of plants and plant products in the country, to prevent pest infestation and disease to local plants.

The minister and his delegation were shown around the laboratory, where tests and analyses are carried out.
Mr Sinon said Seychelles, being small, is a “fragile country” and he felt the staff was doing useful work despite the constraints, notably limited space.

“You have an important role to ensure that not only our fruits and vegetables are of good quality, but also those that we import are safe and healthy to consume,” he said.
At the agriculture requisite section, which has a staff of only three, he was told by the principal, Gilbert Port Louis, that the store occasionally runs out of vital pesticides and herbicides.  This is partly caused by limited storage facilities. The lack of regular sea transportation to Seychelles compounds the problem.

In such cases, the minister was told that the requisite store has to resort to selling only to registered farmers, leaving out the backyard producers.
It was decided that a way around the erratic transportation issue to ensure that the store is always well- stocked is to import in bulk. The minister gave his assurance that funds will be made available for that purpose.  

The third and final stop of the tour was the veterinary services and livestock section, which has a staff of 16, including seven veterinary doctors (including one on Praslin). Several people had brought their pets for treatment.

Principal vet officer, Dr Jimmy Melanie, told the minister that no major illness is presently threatening livestock and pets in Seychelles and there is no necessity for national vaccination campaigns.

Still, Mr Sinon could see that the veterinary staff work under rather crowded conditions.  Even the treatment and surgical room is very small, allowing only one vet to work there at any one time.

As at the crop protection section, the increase in the number of international flights, requiring officers to be present at the airport at all hours, was brought to the minister’s attention.

The minister later told the press that he occasionally receives letters from members of the public, praising the vet officers on their good work.
“Some of those letters stress the concern and compassion which earn our vets the respect of the population,” he said.

He said his visit, following up on one last year, was to re-connect with the staff and reassure them that a major plan is being drawn up to provide for better working conditions which will enable them to provide a better and more efficient service.

Turning to the issue of livestock production, Mr Sinon recalled that the animal feed factory, which was at one time run by the Farmers Cooperative, has since been re-possessed by government and rented out to a private operator, after tenders were called.

Vets attending to the pets of a client. During his visit to the Veterinary Division at Union Vale, Minister Sinon commented on letters he had received from members of the public, praising the vet officers on their good work

He said he has been notified that the factory, which has undergone extensive renovation, is almost ready to resume production and will employ 16 full-time workers.

Mr Sinon said, however, that in the meantime, several livestock farmers, who were necessary to render the factory viable, have stopped production. He noted that it is now necessary for government to provide incentives to woo the disheartened farmers back into business.

“The conditions must be favourable and it is also important to produce poultry at affordable prices for consumers,” said Minister Sinon.

He, however, remarked that consumers must also realise that local broiler and pork are of better quality and healthier than imports.  He pointed to the ongoing scandal in Europe regarding horsemeat being passed off as beef, as a “big eye-opener” for all Seychellois.

“Our small size may be a blessing in disguise,” he said, noting that we can trace all local meat, fish and other foods that we eat and be assured that these are of the best quality.

He noted, however, that local animal feed production requires several important components, such as soya and maize, which have to be imported and has to contend with a situation, rather similar to the crop requisite section regarding unreliable transport by sea.

Mr Sinon noted that being a small market, Seychelles is often deemed not a priority for the shipping companies.  It is for this reason, he said, that government is looking to regional cooperation and viewing Madagascar as a potential breadbasket for our part of the world.

When this becomes reality, we shall be fairly independent and less at the mercy of so many external factors, the minister said.