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Tobago can learn from Brazil scandal
Food security has been on the front
burner of Tobago's agenda for some time
It's been a focus of the last few Tobago
House of Assembly administrations, and in
2017, it matters even more. In fact, The
Agriculture Division's re-designation to the
Division of Food Production and Fisheries
has informed a renewed focus on those
areas, supported by significant infrastruc-
Tobago has several fishing facilities from
Castara to Roxborough and in between, a
cold storage facility and marketing support;
and a new packaging facility that will facil-
itate agro processing to international stan-
dards. The Genetics Centre at Hope, and
training at the Kendal Farm School, the
nursery at Louis D'Or, are all meant to build
Tobago also needs a thriving private sec-
tor that can produce for Tobago, and con-
tribute to the national economy through
its exports, which can also bring in much
needed foreign exchange.
Enterprise development has been boost-
ed in Tobago in the last few years, with
many producers receiving combined support
of loans, grants and business and technical
training that will allow them to expand
their businesses. They've also been con-
nected with possible trade opportunities,
like the recent Export to Canada workshop,
facilitated by the Canadian Embassy, as
well as trade shows, to help those produc-
ers to break into foreign markets.
While Tobago has so far been spared
scandals in the food sector, as food pro-
duction expands in Tobago, there's a lot
producers need to pay attention to, if they
are to build a strong Tobago profile on the
international market. They only need to
look as far as Brazil to see the potential
economic harm producers can face if they
miss the mark.
In a nutshell, bans were enacted early
last week on imports from Brazil in sever-
al countries-including number one import-
er China-after federal police announced
investigations into allegations of bribery of
government health officials by meat pro-
cessing companies was made public, and
the possibility that Brazil's biggest meat
processors have been selling rotten beef
and poultry for years.
It left Brazilian authorities scrambling to
limit the economic impact, while the value
of Brazil's pork and poultry exports plum-
meted. In fact, one article from CNBC news
network reported that meat is Brazil's third
largest export after soy and iron ore, add-
ing: "the country sold around [US] $13.5
billion in chicken, beef and pork products".
The Brazilian Agriculture Minister, Blai-
ro Maggi tried to assure importers that "the
conduct of individuals, and not the quali-
ty of the meat". It resulted in some of those
bans being relaxed but Brazil, whose econ-
omy is already knee deep into a reces-
sion-swift action certainly seems to be
saving its bacon.
So, what can we learn from this fiasco?
Here's a few thoughts that Tobago (and
Trinidad) can consider coming out of this
1. Standards, standards, standards
Breaking into new export markets is chal-
lenging, especially when they're serviced
by big producers like Brazil. Adhering to
export standards, especially when it comes
to food quality, could make the difference
between financial growth and a slumping
As Tobago seeks to further diversify its
economy through growth in agriculture,
tourism, manufacturing and business, it's
important to meet international standards.
A country smaller than Brazil is less likely
to get that second chance.
2. Food security must be a priority
Clearly there were significant assurances
from Brazil to China for them to reverse the
ban so quickly. It didn't help that they were
short supplies from other countries. Food
security for Tobago will take the collabora-
tion of all stakeholders: The Tobago House
of Assembly, farmers, agro processors and
other key players of the industry to ensure
in the future we can become self-sufficient.
The thrust towards sustainable food pro-
duction will not only ensure there's food for
all, but that there's greater economic poten-
tial in the sector moving forward.
3. Reputation determines revenue
Never underestimate the value of a good
reputation. Whether it's food production,
manufacturing, trade or tourism, you only
get one chance to make an impression, and
when it's gone, it's gone. Tobago has to do
more with fewer resources in order to remain
an attractive destination. It means we all
have a part to play in creating the kind of
environment, service and quality of goods
that will earn this island repeat customers
and new ones. And, unlike Brazil, avoid cre-
ating our own rotten luck.
Department of Information
Office of the Chief Secretary.
Acting principal of Bishop's High School Suzette James-Stewart, left, accompanies THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles to the podium on
Tuesday (March 21) during this week's school tour with Education Minister Anthony Garcia (background, second from left), and Minister in the
Ministry of Education Lovell Francis. Charles is also Secretary of Education, Innovation and Energy.
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