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Proudly Supporting Agriculture & and Nurturing Farmers in St. Lucia
25 August, 2016
Author: Sariah Best-Joseph

The produce aisles at Massy Stores (SLU) Ltd. might be one of the sections of the store that customers linger in most, selecting their way through the varieties of fresh produce which are always available. In the last few months locally grown white potatoes and mushrooms have been introduced to the shelves, much to customers’ delight, as this presents more options for of local produce to select from.

Massy Stores is one of the leading purchasers of agricultural product s (produce, livestock, eggs, poultry, broiler and value added products) on the island. Much of what the nation is fed comes from the company’s supermarket shelves. Guided by the understanding that good agricultural practices and agricultural development are directly linked to the stores ability to continue to meet the demands of customers, the company’s role has moved beyond being purely a market for farmers and producers through the eleven Massy Stores. There is a heavy focus on providing some key support structures which are helping to shaping the future of Agriculture in St. Lucia, in particular the ability of Massy Stores registered farmers to produce large qualities of high quality, nutritious produce on a consistent basis.. 

One of the many initiatives in that regard is the Massy Stores Annual Registered Farmers’ Meeting which provides an opportunity for farmers to engage and share with the leadership of the company, the Produce Buyers and other key agricultural stakeholders including officials of the island’s Ministry of Agriculture. This year’s farmers meeting was held two weeks following the rebranding of the company under the theme “Massy Stores, committed to working with the farming community”.  This served as the platform from which to recommit to farmers as they engaged with the new corporate brand.

In his remarks Guest Speaker and Director on the Board of Massy Stores Mr. Gordon Charles told farmers ‘Over the past few decades, our focus has been on building strong, long-term relationships that are sustainable and we have put many programmes in place to strengthen the relationship with you. The agricultural sector is an area of focus for us and is among the more critical for the island, so naturally we are proud to continue to add value to its development now that we are part of the Massy Stores family.!’

One of the programmes which Mr. Charles alluded to is the company’s interest free Registered Farmers Loans Programme, designed to help farmers meet production challenges, enhance quality, introduce new varieties of crops, undertake farm repairs and deal with farm emergencies. Almost three hundred farmers have received assistance under this programme. The successes stories are endless, ranging from one farmer from Vieux Fort (south of the island) who received monies to purchase a water pump to aid his production of chives to be packaged and sold at Massy Stores Mega, to another who purchased greenhouse equipment to help maintain his production and supply of lettuce. Both have been able to double production as a result.

Another ongoing initiative is the Massy Stores Farm Visits, during which the Massy Stores produce buying teams meet with farmers on their properties to discuss market needs and demands, scheduling, supply logistics, production planning for improved product availability, right down to introduction of new varieties of crops etc. The discussions also extend to the importance of business planning, labelling, packaging and value added options to realise a more marketable product. Through these interactions the company has been encouraging famers to become entrepreneurs in their own right. 

The meeting also looked noted the positive outcomes of the Roots and Tubers Programme initiated by Massy Stores with support from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute (CARDI). This programme was created to encourage St. Lucian farmers to get back into the production of traditional crops such as yams, dasheen, potatoes, ginger, carrots and other crops, which were on the decline due to production challenges. Feedback from customers pointed to a real concern about the inconsistency and unavailability of the supply of many varieties of roots and tubers. Customers were also concerned that these traditional produce items did not seem to be a priority for the supermarkets, which was not the case. The introduction of the programme, which was supported by a media campaign to highlight the importance of these crops and their high nutritional value served as a catalyst for improved production. 

Farmers attending the meeting applauded Massy Stores for the work which has been done to date to uplift the sector. Many noted the incentives received from Massy Stores such as preferential pricing for becoming trained and certified in Good Agricultural Practises and Food Safety. This helps maintain high levels of quality which is so important to Massy Stores valued customers.   Many also pointed to the fact that farmers get special Massy Loyalty Points when shopping at the stores, as testimony to the value which Massy Stores places on farmers.

With locally grown food, freshness, flavor, quality and availability becoming even more important to customers (which also includes restaurants, small hotels and yachtees), the relationship between Massy Stores and its farmers is expected to move to another level. And while, there are still challenges to be overcome, farmers are confident of growth because of the powerful connection which exists and the action oriented manner in which Massy Stores is responding to their needs. Hardly surprising given the fact that Responsibility is one of the core values of the company with Corporate Social Responsibility as a key driver.

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