Government Moves to Boost Food Production | Trinidad

The National Food Crop Farmers’ Association (NFFA) is moving to slash the staggering $4-billion food import bill by half, within the next 18 months. 
The members are calling on the People’s Partnership administration to allow Cepep workers to play an integral role in helping T&T obtain food security, affordable food prices, and produce more local food. 

The education and research officer of the NFFA, Norris Deonarine, said they intended to cut the increasing bill by encouraging its 19,000 registered farmers to grow a variety of foods and rear livestock.

Deonarine said they were also looking to woo approximately 11,000 additional farmers, who abandoned their lands back, into the sector to ramp up food production. 
Tonnes of staples, peas and beans, vegetables, fruits, spices, meats, and fruit juices are imported, taking T&T’s food import bill over the years to an astronomical figure. Foods such as onions, garlic, carrots, peas, beans, spices and, even grapes, which T&T has been importing for decades to feed its 1.3 million population, Deonarine said, could be grown on state and privately-owned lands.

Deonarine said Governments Tucker Valley Mega-Farm in Chaguaramas, which has been producing poor yields and under-utilized Caroni 1975 Ltd lands were two locations being considered by its association to increase agricultural contribution. The NFFA is also looking to introduce corn, cassava and even breadfruit flour on the market, which Deonarine insisted was far healthier than white flour. In the past, Deonarine said Paramin farmers grew carrots on a large scale, but its production declined when the government started importing the orange-colored vegetable. “There is no doubt that if we can increase food production and cut the food bill by half in the coming 18 months, once we have a proper machinery in place,” said Deonarine. “Once we have the right conditions, a proper framework, the backing of the Food Production Ministry and, empower the farming community, we can achieve our goals.”

I sense a spirit and a drive that augers well for food production in Trinidad and Tobago. The new Minister of Food Production, along with the Farmers Association, both appear to be hyped about doing better and achieving more with regard to food production.

They have stated that they want to cut the nation's food import bill in half within 18 months, but realistically, I don't think that this can be achieved in such a short period. There is so much that needs to be undone. There is so much that needs to change before we have a new system in place that would put on this path that would see the nation's food import bill halved. I have a dream is a great way to start and with the assistance of the government, people may just be able to think big and achieve greater yields if all the stars are aligned for success. However, that is not always the case.

I must say that everything seems to be heading in a positive direction. We need to assist the rice farmers, improve and increase our production in non-traditional food crops like carrots, onions, and garlic on a bigger scale. We know how to produce corn, peas and, root crops on a large scale and now we need to do the same with some of the food items that we import on a regular basis.

I would like to see us get back into sugar production, but not on the scale that we did before. We can't allow ourselves to become importers of sugar when we can and always had an industry that supplied our local needs 100%.

I like what I have been reading and hearing thus far. If the Food Ministry with help from the Works and Transport Ministry helps with the flooding problems, infrastructural needs of the farmers then the stars may just align themselves and enable or agricultural assets to become a viable industry that not only feeds the nation but also provide much-needed employment for many. In the end, the diversification of the nation's productivity base would shift a little, but at the same time have a telling impact on the tables of the nation's households. What is there to criticize? Let us be supportive of the efforts of the government now that the heart of the farmers is gushing with excitement. The comments and pronouncements coming from the Minister are appropriate and welcomed at this time. 

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