Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 6th 2014 Contents BG4 NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt NOVEMBER 2014 • WEEK ONE
The T&T Fine Cocoa Company
may have its first locally devel-
oped product by Christmas,
said Dr Marlene Attzs, deputy
chairman of the Economic
Development Board (EDB),
which falls under the Ministry of Planning
and Sustainable Development.
"We have actually set in train some of the
plans for the T&T Fine Cocoa Company. It is
in process to be set up based on the studies
we have done. It is no secret that T&T has
high quality cocoa being produced. We have
identified for us to get into agro-processing.
We are hoping to have a product available by
December. It may not be the final product,
but there is something called Chocolate Liquor
which is not liquor as in the drink, but an
ingredient used in making chocolate. So we
are hoping to have that available, if not the
final chocolate bars product, on the market
soon," she said.
The present EDB board was appointed in
Attzs said the original mandate of the board
was to take a "snapshot" of what was hap-
pening in the economy and to facilitate eco-
nomic development in an advisory role.
"This is consistent with what would have
been outlined in the medium-term planning
framework. This document guides us as well
as the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable
Development. We have continued working in
the five growth poles."
She said Cabinet has approved their plan
to revitalise the cocoa and honey industries.
"These areas have been dormant for some
time and based on the studies that we have
done, we have identified areas to focus on.
We have done some work in the cocoa industry
and also some work in the honey industry.
Those are at the advanced stages."
She also said EDB hopes to soon have an
increase in honey production.
"The National Agriculture Advisory Com-
mittee of the Ministry of Food Production
accepted the EDB recommendation to roll out
a programme to increase honey production in
the north coast and south western growth
poles. The idea is to reduce the local supply
gap by increasing domestic production," she
Attzs spoke to the Business Guardian two
Wednesdays ago at the Ministry of Planning
and Sustainable Development, Tower D, Port-
of-Spain International Waterfront Centre.
North coast under scrutiny
Attzs said the EDB has had two consultations
so far on the north coast, which is one of the
five growth poles.
She added they have assisted the fisherfolk
in areas like Matelot in the area of net repair.
"Apart from net repair, we have worked
with the Ministry of Food Production to repair
their jetty so the fisherfolk could have a more
reliable area in which they can operate. We
have started courses in financial literacy, espe-
cially to facilitate those communities to manage
their affairs and to help them and to help them
get to some state of economic development.
The EDB itself has not done this, but in col-
laboration with the Central Bank," she said.
On November 22, the EDB team and Plan-
ning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie will have a
consultation at the Maracas Community Cen-
"This will identify what our plans are for
the area and get buy in. They already are aware,
so now it is to roll out the plans. We have
commissioned an economic study for the area
and what kinds of crops can be grown and
revitalising agriculture in the area. We are tar-
geting between 200 and 250 members to be
there. We want people to help themselves."
Although she did not have the statistics
available, Attz said the poverty and unem-
ployment levels on the north coast are high.
"The growth poles sectors are the areas
where there are high levels of unemployment
and levels of literacy that you would not con-
sider to be sustainable.
"We are trying to address those challenges
in terms of the financial literacy programmes
and get people to a level so that they can a
manage their affairs. So how do the fisherfolk
determine what price they sell at and determine
their levels of savings. It is about teaching
skills for life and managing it as a business.
They have to manage their flow of income so
it is more sustainable," she said.
Attz said the EDB is also looking at the
southwest growth poles like La Brea that have
high levels of unemployment and poverty and
what kind of activities can lead to sustainable
"Once we have success stories, then we can
replicate those in other parts of the country.
We know these growth poles are not the only
pockets of poverty in the country, but we
needed to start somewhere."
She believes higher economic growth and
lifting people out of poverty will lead to a
reduction in negative social issues like crime.
"The idea is if you give people the oppor-
tunity to have sustainable livelihood, then they
will be less likely to be distracted by negative
social activities, deviant behaviour, crime and
drugs. Drugs, for some people, is a viable eco-
nomic alternative. We are simply showing
people if they get into viable economic activ-
ities, then they are less inclined to do these
In east Port-of-Spain, she said they are
looking at cultural services and agriculture.
"We are still fleshing out these details, but
the idea is that we deal with the issue of youth
unemployment and involvement with crime.
We want to ensure we have a future for T&T.
If you have youth losing their life to crime
and negative activity, then it means as a pop-
ulation, the country will be in problems."
Focus on Tobago
Attz said Tobago is one of the five growth
poles targeted and the EDB plans to meet
with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).
"We want to meet with them in Tobago
so we could have that buy in for that particular
growth pole. One of the main topics for dis-
cussion will be agriculture. Years ago, Tobago
played an important role in food production.
Of course, out of that the next stage will be
agro processing. Then there is the develop-
ment of the tourism sector that we need to
look at. But we need to dialogue with the
She spoke of the need to diversify the
tourism product from sun, sand and sea to
"Tobago has a lot of waterfalls, forest ranges
and these can be used to deepen the tourism
aspects of Tobago."
A slow process
Attz said it won t be easy to change T&T s
long history of having oil and gas.
"Culturally, we are an oil and gas economy.
If you speak to John Public, they will tell you
that the oil and gas belong to everyone. If
you bring up GATE , people would say they
do not need to pay for that as T&T earns a
lot from oil and gas. Leading up to the budget,
there was a radio discussion and people were
calling and saying the Government should
not remove the fuel subsidy as this is one of
the benefits of an oil and gas economy."
Attz said diversification is a gradual process.
"That process will be to change the mind-
set. T&T has the mentality among the pop-
ulation that foreign products are better than
locally made. If we were to put locally-pro-
duced goods on the market, there are still
those who have an appetite for foreign goods.
So if we are trying to develop the agriculture
sector, it will take time to develop that buy
in. So we have to know market this."
"We have had world-class cocoa and put
it on the shelf so that T&T nationals could
say this world-class product was made here,
then sell it on the international market as
that is where the value added will come in.
The diversification thrust has been slow.
"The bulk of our economy still comes from
oil and gas. At all levels of the society, people
accept that is the reality, although people
recognise the country has to develop its agri-
culture and tourism and other products. We
cannot continue to have the high food import
bill that will strangle the economy. It is not
Attz said many T&T nationals wrongly
look at the gross domestic product (GDP)
per capita and think T&T is economically
comfortable and there is no need to change
the economic structure.
"It is wrong because when you look at
crime, poverty, productivity, how then can
you reconcile high GDP per capita with these
issues? Many of our young people are not
completing secondary schools. We must make
the point it is a per capita GDP close to
US$20,000, but that is only because of oil
and gas, which we must change."
Deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board
PHOTO: JEFF MAYERS
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