February 15, 2017:  ‘What do we do … what are the things that we are going to do in order to bring more planting materials to our farmers’? – answers to these questions should be the outcome of today’s session said Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries at the Workshop, titled ‘Achieving Food Security through the Provision of Adequate Planting Material to Farmers’ on Wednesday 15th February, 2017 at the Sugarcane Feeds Centre, Longdenville, Chaguanas.  Sharing the context for the hosting of this Workshop, Senator Rambharat said ‘I asked for the best and the brightest minds in the industry to come together to solve this issue [and] develop a protocol or a plan so that we can assist the farmers in food production since this is the business that we are in.  We must provide the farmers with the materials that they need!’


‘Agriculture is a business and must be treated as such’ said Dr. Alleyne, a visiting Agronomist from the United States of America (USA).  Dr. Alleyne, a former Ministry of Agriculture employee, brought an international perspective on the issues of technology, germplasm conservation, retrofitting nurseries, developing human capacity, research and bio-security.  He noted particularly that ‘agriculture significantly contributes to economic and social stability, rural welfare, and environmental sustainability’.


Senator Avinash Singh, Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries shared that he was pleased to be part of the day’s Session and ‘congratulated the Honourable Minister for his vision for calling on the key players and technical staff to collaborate in hosting an event of this nature’; saying that ‘the outcomes of this Workshop have the potential to impact positively not only on the country but the entire Region.  Let us see this Workshop through and let it bear fruit’.


‘How can we put the systems in place in Trinidad and Tobago to improve the supply of seeds and plants?’ asked Greg Rawlins, Representative, Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).  While, the Executive Director of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Mr. Barton Clarke stated that ‘this issue of planting material is critical for us to be addressing at this time if we expect to meet the challenges of food security’.  ‘We need to recognize the role of farmers and their rights’ he further shared; reminding the audience that sharing of planting material is what accounts for the Region enjoying produce such as breadfruit and citrus.


Presentations were delivered by Ms. Albada Bekham, Director – Agricultural Services Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; Dr. Annika Minott, Scientist, CARDI; Ms. Deanne Ramroop, Deputy Director – Research (Crops), Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; Dr. Kurt Manrique, International Specialist in Agricultural Innovation, IICA; Dr. John Alleyne, Agronomist; Mr. Felix Clarke, Citrus Farmer; Ms. Kay Parkinson, Technical Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; Dr. Laura Roberts-Nkrumah, Senior Lecturer, UWI; Mr. Selwyn Brown, Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; and Mr. Ramdeo Boondoo, President, Roots and Tubers Producers Association.


Topics covered included Capacity to meet Farming Needs of Citrus, Avocado, Breadfruit and Coconuts; Results of Planting Materials Survey; Regulatory Requirements; IICA Experience with the Movement of Germplasm – Case Studies in Coconut; Improving Germplasm Reservoirs and Planting Material Production Systems; Capacity to supply planting material – status on citrus (key issues, industry perspective), status on breadfruit (key issues, potential varieties for multiplication in Trinidad and Tobago), status on coconut (key issues, production of planting material – regional perspective), status on avocado (key issues); Root Crops Planting Material.  The Session closed with the development of an Action Plan for Increased Capacity to Provide Planting Material to Farmers.


This Workshop was hosted in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI); and focused on strategies for supplying planting material for coconuts, citrus, breadfruit and avocado with the intention that the approaches adopted for these commodities can be applied to other commodities in Trinidad and Tobago.


In attendance were Mr. Claudelle Mc Kellar, Deputy Permanent Secretary; Ms. Patricia Maharaj, Chief Technical Officer; among others.