March 14, 2017: Speaking at the Hand-over Ceremony of Multi-crates and other Assets to beneficiaries of the 10th EDF Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) in Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday 14th March, 2017, Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries said to the farmers present ‘we will continue to meet with the farmers, discuss the issues and try to resolve the problems’. Noting that he was particularly pleased to be present at the event, Minister Rambharat said that on the issue of youth in agriculture, this particular Project ‘demonstrated to the young people who are interested in agriculture that there are opportunities. Though not an easy way of earning a living, it requires a lot of dedication, effort; [and] for the young people in places like Wallerfield and Maloney, you see young people really working hard and making the effort and sacrifice; the group gathered here today demonstrates that there is interest and there are opportunities’.
Assuring the Minister of the support of the Agricultural Society, Mrs. Dhano Sookoo, President said ‘we give you our full commitment, we are here to support the programmes of the Ministry, we are here to support you as Minister of Agriculture in taking the agriculture sector forward. We are prepared to do it together with you - as partners in this development programme’.
Stating that ‘today is a very memorable and proud moment for the ASTT’, Mrs. Sookoo outlined that this was the first time that farmers have received direct benefits from an international funding agency. Hot peppers was chosen as the agricultural commodity under the APP, because of its potential. Members of the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ASTT) and representatives of NAMDEVCO received 1,500 multi-crates to be used primarily by farmers and exporters to enhance the harvest, field packing, storage and transportation of fresh produce such as hot peppers thereby reducing post-harvest losses and improving product quality and marketability.
On the issue of collaboration, the Minister referenced his meeting with the Principal of the University of the West Indies, which he coined a ‘Summit for Survival’, with eighteen senior officials from the Ministry present along with twelve senior representatives of the University. Though ‘there are bright, committed and hard working people within the Ministry’, the Minister stated that there is a need to put ‘skin in the game’, which underlies the need for more commitment to providing the support to the stakeholders – the persons who have made an investment of their time, sweat and money in agriculture.
The Agriculture Minister also shared plans for reviewing the legislative framework within which the Agricultural Society operates, stating that ‘this year, we will have some meaningful discussions on modernizing the legislation governing the ASTT and secondly modernizing the way in which farmers groups are formed and represented and the way that we as a Government interact with farmers groups’. This, in the context of providing a less fragmented sector that allows for better public policy decision making.
Under Component 3 of the APP, which addressed improved entrepreneurial, marketing and organisational capacities of small holders and valued added enterprises, members of producer groups such as the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ASTT), the Network of Rural Women Producers (NRWP) and the Trinidad and Tobago Goat and Sheep Society (TTGSS) were provided with semi-industrial processing and packaging equipment to enhance operational efficiency and product competitiveness. The 10th EDF Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) was implemented by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and its partners - the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute (CARDI) and the CARICOM Secretariat and for which the operational phase came to an end on December 31, 2016.
Other speakers included His Excellency Aad Biesebroek, Head of Delegation and Ambassador of the European Union to Trinidad and Tobago and Mr. Gregg C. E. Rawlins, IICA Representative in Trinidad and Tobago and Coordinator, Regional Integration, Caribbean Region;