Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 9th 2013 Contents A10
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A CA A
Reports that the Government plans to provide
10,000 acres of land in Guyana for T&T s farmers
have already stirred up discontentment within the
Among the groups voicing their concerns are the
T&T Agriculture Society, United Farmers Association
and the T&T Cane Producers Association.
In an interview yesterday, president of the T&T
United Farmers Association Shiraz Ali called on the
Government to disclose who are the farmers who
would stand to benefit from farming in Guyana.
He added that development of agricultural land
in Guyana would not bring about a dent in T&T s
$4 billion food import bill.
Ali said any move to boost agricultural diversification
in T&T should be geared at reducing this exorbitant
figure which has contributed to escalating inflation.
"If those T&T farmers bring in food into the country
will it not be considered imported food? This effort
is not going to bring a dent on the food import bill,"
Ali noted there was more than 10,000 acres of
fertile agricultural land in T&T which could be devel-
oped for farming.
"Local farmers are yearning for government support
in terms of lease and infrastructure," he said.
"We ignore them yet we plan to take selected farm-
ers to Guyana and give them massive loans for hous-
ing. This doesnt make sense. What will be our return
from this investment?" Ali said.
He noted that farmers in Wallerfield and Carlsen
Field had been begging for years for land to be reg-
"Recently, the Government gave 500 farmers two
acre-leases but those farmers have no road access
to lands, no water for their crops when dry season
comes," Ali said.
"How can they use these lands if there is no infra-
structure? Why is government concerned about sat-
isfying its financiers and friends rather than develop
agriculture in T&T."
He noted that under the PNM, the then agriculture
minister Arnold Piggott spoke about bringing 7,000
people into lucrative farming. Ali said the Government
should follow the same by offering leases, incentives
and loans to local farmers.
Instead of offering lands in Guyana to local farmers,
Ali said the Government should consider setting up
a mega farm in Guyana which would produce corn
for animal feed production. He explained that corn
was fast becoming scarce because the United States
was using corn to produce biofuel.
Ali also said the Government had no consultation
with stakeholders in the agricultural sector before
deciding on land development in Guyana.
Farmers slam Govt plans
to grow food in Guyana
He revealed that local farmers were facing fierce
competition from T&T s mega farms.
"Caroni has 77,000 acres of lands which are now
abandoned. We have the Non Pareil Estate in Sangre
Grande which is 27,00 acres plus. In Wallerfield, we
have over 1,200 acres. There are thousands of acres
in Carlsen Field. For years we have been begging
government to make lands available. Why do they
now want to go to Guyana? What is the cost arrange-
ment with Guyana. How will we get produce back
to Trinidad?" Sookoo said.
She added that the mega farms of T&T was sup-
posed to cater for exporting but instead were causing
a glut in the market. She said T&T had enough land
to produce food for all of Caricom.
"Proper freight arrangements are not there. All we
have is schooners and we need proper refrigerated
vessels to allow us to export. Why doesn t government
deal with these problems rather than focussing on
developing agriculture in Guyana," Sookoo lament-
ed.She said a lot has been invested in agriculture,
including the digging of 500 farm ponds and paving
of hundreds of kilometres of access roads.
"What we need now are leases and proper methods
to sustain agriculture," she added.
President of the Cane Producers Association
Seukaran Tambie also said he was skeptical about
who would benefit from the Guyananese agriculture
"Is it big business or smaller farmers who stand
to gain. What is the cost arrangements between T&T
and Guyana? It will cost more than $50,000 to
develop one acre of land. Who will pay for this?"
He accused the Government of trying to kill the
local agriculture industry. Tambie said every sector
of agriculture had been declining in recent years. He
also said that no consultation was ever made with
the local agriculture stakeholders before decisions
were made to boost agriculture.
It is expected that Finance Minister Larry Howai
would outline the details of the new land policy in
Guyana. Under the agreement investors would be
able to apply to the Ministry of Food Production for
a permit to farm in Guyana.
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'A o , v o
B o y Co o v o
y PHOTO: EDISON BOODOOSINGH
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