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Suggestions for millions more dollars to be put into the agriculture appropriation in the Budget is a wrong call, says Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown.
Brown, who is also the deputy prime minister, said this was because there is a lack of understanding about how much exactly the government has been putting into agriculture over these years.
In particularly, he said, with the large amount of agriculture machinery that has been put out to all the islands through the Chinese grant fund.
Brown was responding to suggestions made by members of the Opposition Democratic Party during the debate on the Appropriation Amendment Bill in Parliament last week.
Matavera MP Vaitoti Tupa said he made a request last year if the Vote Item for the Ministry of Agriculture could be increased to $3 million (US$2 milion).
“This was my request to Parliament last year. I trust our new Budget for the year 2019/20 has considered appropriating this sum of money for the Ministry of Agriculture. I want to raise that now before we debate on the Vote Item for agriculture,” Tupa said.
Opposition leader Tina Browne said she supported the comments from outside of the Parliament with regard to putting more money into agriculture.
Brown said they have the resources, land and some experts in the agriculture ministry to take the industry to new heights.
“And I would ask us to inject a lot of many into agriculture so that agriculture will again feature highly in our revenue earning stream,” she said.
DPM Brown said the small agriculture machineries that went out nearly four years ago to all of the local growers amounted to over $3.5 million (US$2.3 million).
“The important thing in my view is not so much to increase the budget of agriculture but to put the money into the agriculture industry and into the agriculture sector so that the growers and producers themselves are supported directly,” he said.
“Because there is no doubt that agriculture plays a very important role in the livelihoods of many of our people who supplies the domestic market.”
Brown also said he was aware that the minister of agriculture Rose Brown and the associate minister Patrick Arioka were working very, very well to try to find initiatives that will support the industry directly.
These initiatives he said would benefit those growers not just here in Rarotonga but right around the Cook Islands.
“And that may mean putting some money into the Ministry of Agriculture but it also means putting money directly into the industry which may not be recognised in the Budget.”.
SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS
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