Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 2nd 2017 Contents MARCH 2 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG7
T&T sharpens focus on
Increased state investment and new
incentives for the private sector to
encourage expansion in Trinidad and
Tobago's agro-processing industry,
while also spurring growth in primary
In November Prime Minister Keith Rowley
announced plans to invest $75m (US$11m) in
new agro-processing facilities in the district
of Moruga on the south coast of Trinidad, as
well as provide support for the local fishing
From peppers to pigeon peas
The Cabinet has approved an eight-hectare
site at Saunders Trace for an agro-processing
estate able to process and package local pro-
duce, such as Moruga's indigenous scorpion
pepper, for domestic sale and export.
Potential for agro-processing will be further
enhanced by a $300m (US$44.4m) investment
to develop a fishing port in the district, with
work set to begin in the first half of 2017.
Development of the facilities will encour-
age local farmers to diversify their crops and
boost domestic food security, Rowley said in
his announcement speech.
Noting a need to decrease T&T's dependence
on food imports, he said farmers had a ready
market for produce thanks to strong demand
that was not being met by domestic suppliers.
He cited the example of pigeon peas imported
from Santo Domingo and pink guava sourced
from Cuba, as well sorrel and soursop.
Processing, niche products
Tobago is also looking to further develop
the value-added components of its agricul-
For example, at the Cove Eco-Industrial and
Business Park---a 57-hectare site operated by
private firm Eco-Industrial Development
Company of Tobago---one area will be dedi-
cated specifically to agro-processing and light
While the limited scale of agricultural pro-
duction may constrain the volume of agro-pro-
cessing for the small twin-island nation, there
is potential to develop a range of niche products
for both local and export markets.
One example is green peppers, which are
grown widely in the country. If supplies of the
pepper can be expanded, industry players say
T&T has potential to break into the overseas
market for specialised food items, especially
in areas with a sizeable Caribbean expatriate
community, such as Canada.
According to the World Bank, there are
roughly as many Caribbean diaspora mem-
bers living in North America and Europe as in
the region as a whole, indicating significant
untapped potential for specialty goods.
The government has signalled that it con-
siders agriculture critical to the country's de-
velopment. Soon after being sworn in at the
start of the year, the new chief secretary of the
Tobago House of Assembly, Kelvin Charles,
listed agriculture as one of his top priorities
This sentiment was reflected in the coun-
try's 2017 budget, handed down at the end of
September, which offers tax relief for many
operators in agro-processing and proposes to
grant tax-free status to all approved agro-pro-
The Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fish-
eries aims to develop a certification process
to ensure that local content benefits from this
incentive. To qualify under new regulations
to be enacted, at least 75 per cent of a firm's
agricultural processing must be done in T&T,
and 75 per cent of the ingredients must be pro-
duced or harvested locally.
The aim of the measure, according to Colm
Imbert, minister of finance, is not only to stim-
ulate the downstream component of the in-
dustry, but also to expand the market for local
farmers and produce suppliers.
The tax relief plan for agro-processing was
widely welcomed. Soon after their announce-
ment, Orville London, former chief secretary of
the Tobago House of Assembly, said the meas-
ures would help stimulate the island's econo-
my and complement economic diversification
efforts by encouraging local entrepreneurs.
Added value, food security
More robust agro-processing and primary
production are essential if T&T is to bolster
food security and reduce its import bill, ac-
cording to Omardath Maharaj, an agricultural
economist and consultant.
"Being import-dependent with a burgeon-
ing annual food import bill of approximately
$6bn (US$887.7m), declining foreign exchange
reserves and increasing pressure on exchange
rates, and widening current account and fis-
cal deficits, we must focus on our food inde-
pendence sooner rather than later," he said
in a statement issued at the start of the year.
Adding value and maximising the agricul-
ture sector's limited resources through targeted
investments, Maharaj added, will strengthen
links in the supply chain for food and develop
This T&T economic update was produced by
Oxford Business Group.
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