June 11, 2017: Delivering the Feature Address to a packed audience of over three hundred at the Opening Ceremony of the First ever Caribbean Moringa Symposium and Festival on Saturday 10th June, 2017 at the UTT Waterloo Research Station, Waterloo, Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries spoke on three main issues – 1. an expression of gratitude for the invitation to the Symposium; 2. a caution offered; and 3. advice offered. ‘Siajan (Moringa) as a food source is undisputed’ he said.
‘A Ministry of Agriculture has become a very complex Ministry in the current environment. A Minister of Agriculture today [now] has the task of dealing with issues of food safety, issues of health and wellness, significant trade matters, [and] issues of customs and tariffs [among others]’ noted Senator Rambharat, saying that he refused to get ‘caught up in the food import bill trap’. ‘What we should be focusing on is on that over which we have control, that we can produce competitively and we could increase the production and reduce that segment of the food import bill’, he said, reminding the audience of his words immediately after he was sworn in as Minister, which was that the focus should not be on the issue of the food import bill but rather that the focus should be on the issue of health.
The Agriculture Minister asked the UTT researchers for ‘a deeper consideration, not only of moringa, but a deeper consideration of traditional and non-traditional food sources which are available to us’. He noted that ‘there are two areas that are wide open for the debate – they are Moringa as a health supplement and Moringa as a drug’. The audience was treated to a detailed insight of the Food and Drug Bill, which the Minister as a legal expert reviewed with them in the context of the claims and advertising material promoting Moringa as an herbal medicinal product/drug/medicine. He also said that ‘this Symposium will introduce the need for research [for traditional, herbal and complementary medicine]. Secondly, the issue of advertising claims and false claims [calls for urgent] regulation’.
The inaugural event saw the collaborative efforts among the University, Moringa stakeholders and interest groups. Speakers included Professor Kenneth S. Julien (Emeritus), Chairman of the Board of Governors, UTT; Professor Dyer Narinesingh, President, UTT; Mr. A. Das, Representative of the High Commission of India to Trinidad and Tobago; and Dr. Pooran Bridgemohan, Associate Professor – Crop Science, UTT.
The one-day Symposium included presentations on the topics of ‘Scientific evidence to support the use of Moringa’; ‘Advances in Moringa Research at UTT’; Singing Saijans from Jahaji Bundles. Among the distinguished guests were Former Minister Brinsley Samaroo; Former Minister Clinton De Couteau; Ms. Dhano Sookoo, President, ASTT; Ms. Hazel Brown, activist.