The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) launched its agriculture policy on Friday (May 18) in simultaneous events across 21 islands and two cities, pledging to establish a government-owned corporation to purchase local produce.
Speaking at a ceremony on the island of Kulhudhufushi in Haa Dhaal Atoll, former President Mohamed Nasheed said the Maldives could grow 44 percent of the foodstuff currently imported into the country, significantly decreasing its dependence on imports.
“God willing, when this policy is implemented, imported fruits and vegetables will decrease by 44 percent,” he said.
Of the MVR 245 million (US$15.8 million) worth of agricultural produce imported to the Maldives annually, Nasheed said, the country could produce foodstuff worth MVR 108 million (US$7 million).
The agri-boats would ensure that farmers are paid immediately for their produce, which would otherwise remain unsold and left to spoil.
Two “agri-centres” would be set up across the country as market hubs for local produce, including Kulhudhufushi in the north.
A communications system was proposed to connect farmers to the agri-centers while harbour markets with cold storage facilities would be set up on 24 islands.
The government would also invest in large agriculture fields in farming islands, he continued, which would be provided facilities, expert guidance, hydroponic systems, water and electricity on an economically feasible scale.
A government-owned corporation would be set up to purchase local produce and sell the processed and “value-added” products to resorts and other businesses, Nasheed pledged.
Once the corporation becomes profitable, he added, the government would divest its majority stake and sell shares to the public.
In addition, the corporation would produce juices and syrups from unsold fruits that could be preserved for longer periods, he said.
Successful implementation of the policy would increase the income generated by farmers by 33 percent and increase the country’s productivity, Nasheed said.
The policy includes MVR 188 million (US$12 million) to be provided as agriculture loans through a development bank.
The mini-manifesto also proposed conducting training programmes for 1,000 farmers and creating 2,456 job opportunities.
According to the fourth mini-manifesto, the MDP government trained over 5,000 farmers as of 2011 and 11 farmers earned diplomas in agriculture.
A cooperative society was established to increase the participation of women in agriculture and special training programmes were conducted for women.
Through the MDP government’s economic reforms voted through in late 2011, import duties were completely eliminated for agricultural equipment and tariffs raised on some imported goods as a protectionist measure for local industries.
As part of Nasheed’s re-election campaign, the MDP has been unveiling its manifesto as a series of mini-manifestos or detailed policies. The agri-business mini-manifesto follows the guesthouse/mid-market tourism policy, mariculture policy and worker’s rights policy.
Each policy was launched across a number of islands with panel discussions and information sessions conducted by MDP MPs and former cabinet ministers.
The policy on “empowered workers” launched on May 4 pledged the introduction of a minimum wage of MVR 4,500 (not applicable to small and medium-sized enterprises), 28 job creation programmes, “flexi-time” working hours for women, internships for students, career guidance facilities and provision of transport to workplaces.
The MDP contested the 2008 presidential election with a similar manifesto based on five main pledges: affordable housing, free universal healthcare, lower cost of living, a nationwide public transport network of ferries and policies to combat drug trafficking and abuse.
In November 2009, a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) was formulated with technical assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to outline a framework for implementation of the MDP manifesto.
The UNDP said in a statement at the time that it worked closely with the government and other UN agencies to formulate “a concrete results-based action plan within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals and human rights with clear targets, mandates, and the means of implementation.
“The evolving work on costing and monitoring and evaluation will ensure that the Manifesto pledges are successfully executed to significantly improve the quality of life of all Maldivians thereby sustaining the very foundation of the democracy in the country,” the UNDP stated.
“In our quest for a more prosperous Maldives, we remain unyieldingly committed to the principles of liberal democracy. We also believe that the full potential of our people may only be realised by relinquishing to our citizens greater control over their own destinies,” then-President Nasheed wrote in the foreword of the SAP.
“It is these two basic principles that animate our desire to have a small government that places greater emphasis on the marketplace and a more decentralised system of governance,” he wrote.