Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 12th 2017 Contents KALIFA CLYNE
This country imported $32.7 bil-
lion in food---mainly fruits and
vegetables, cereals, dairy and
meat---between 2011 and 2016.
The high food import bill, which
has been identi ied as a prob-
lem by successive governments,
crossed $5 billion in 2012 and has
stayed at around $5.6 billion in the
past two years, despite economic
challenges and complaints about
access to foreign exchange.
While on multiple occasions
Government has blamed citizens'
taste for foreign things for the high
igure, citizens have expressed
feelings that range from confusion
over differentiating between local
and foreign food products, and a
complete apathy toward locally
produced food because of what
some described as "poor quality".
At the same time, farmers said
that over the past four years there
has not been any clear direction
on a policy by the Government to
increase public consumption of
local goods within the agriculture
Agriculture Minister Clarence
Rambharat, in his few direct com-
ments about the high import bill,
noted that $669 million of the
2016 food import bill was from the
importation of alcohol. However,
while Rambharat stated the 2016
igure was $669 million, the Cen-
tral Statistical Of ice (CSO) website
lists the igure as $351 million.
The igure for 2015 was listed as
$390 million and $369 million for
During the Senate debate of the
iscal 2018 Budget, Rambharat
distanced himself from the high
igure, stating that while media
and citizens continued to raise
questions about the food import
bill, he was not the one bringing
alcohol into the country.
Data compiled by the CSO
showed that in 2016, vegetables
and fruits accounted for approx-
imately $1 billion of the food
import bill. Cereal and cereal
preparations also accounted for
approximately $900 million dur-
ing that same period.
From $4.7 B in 2011
to $5.6 B in 2016
For several years, governments
have pushed a number of "buy
local" campaigns, with the latest
being the farm-to-table approach
encouraged by the Ministry of Ag-
riculture and facilitated through
farmer's markets set up around
Even though citizens are ac-
tively encouraged to purchase
local food items, the food import
bill rose from $4.7 billion in 2011
to $5.6 billion in 2015.
No response from Rambharat
Rambharat did not answer
emailed questions regarding the
food import bill and did not ac-
knowledge or respond to multi-
ple text messages. On October 10,
this reporter emailed questions
to Rambharat at his request, and
sent several follow-up reminders
of the email via text message on
October 12 and October 31, and
several phone calls between those
dates. Rambharat did not respond
to questions up to late yesterday.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
T&T food bill still high
President of the Agricultural
Society of T&T Dhano Sookoo
said if there was a plan for the
agriculture sector in this country, it
has not been clearly communicated
Sookoo, in an interview with the
Guardian, said the Ministry of
Agriculture had made no attempt
in the past four years to either
create or implement a policy that
looked at import substitution.
Among the things the country
imports are butter, spices, cocoa,
fruit juices and preserved fruit,
flour, rice, fish, cheese and meats.
Sookoo said the ministry should
look at encouraging substitutions
for the foods we do produce.
Potato salad could be made with
sweet potato, or cassava flour used
instead of imported brands.
"There is no action plan, no
direction or anything."
Sookoo said the AGTT had
presented a programme of work,
hosted a national farmers forum
and identified areas they felt the
ministry would focus but have seen
no initiative by the ministry.
"There is absolutely nothing, no
real conversation between the
minister and farmers. Anybody can
go and meet the stakeholders but
how do you turn that into action.
He (Rambharat) has not been able
to implement anything where we
have seen some sort of strategic
President of the Agricultural Society
of T&T Dhano Sookoo.
PICTURE RALPH BANWARIE Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat listens to a question being posed during the
Standing Finance Committee in Parliament.
PICTURE COURTESY OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT
A vendor stands near a table piled with ground provisions at the Namdevco Farmers Market in Diego Martin.
PICTURE DAVID WEARS
...$32.7 B between 2011 to 2016
NO PLAN FOR AGRICULTURESOOKOO
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