Agriculture Ministry to address land tenure issues using technology

Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat says that he remains committed to ensuring that farmers have land tenure so that they can continue to make an investment in agriculture “that will take them into the next sixty (60) years.”

This he said on Thursday 27th September, 2018, while delivering the Feature Address at the Opening Ceremony of the World Cocoa and Chocolate Day Expo which took place at the Institute of Critical Thinking at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine Campus. The ceremony was attended by His Excellency Luis Rodomiro Hernández Ortiz, Ambassador to the Republic of Peru; Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ms. Frances Seignoret; Pro Vice Chancellor and Campus Principal, UWI (St. Augustine), Professor Brian Copeland and Director of the Cocoa Research Centre, UWI (St. Augustine), Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan.

Minister Rambharat made clear his commitment to securing land tenure for farmers, citing too that as both “a Minister of Agriculture” and “a lawyer with twenty-three (23) years-experience with State land”, he had “been working at a tremendous rate” toward the fulfilment of this exercise. He said: “While we want to move towards less land-reliant forms of agricultural production, our core production is on the land. I would like to go on record as the Minister who makes a big difference in the lives of our farmers by giving them a future in farming.” To this end, the Minister noted certain investments made by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, to its information technology (IT) capacity and in particular, as it related to the Ministry’s “file management and land administration”. He said the tasks to be undertaken, would include: the digitisation of some 130,000 survey plans in the country; the layering of information on those survey plans and; the “move away” from the “paper file system” through the digitisation of agricultural files, which he felt, would enable the easy and electronic access to land tenure information.

In delivering his address to a crowd comprising educators, researchers, farmers, chocolatiers and cocoa entrepreneurs, Minister Rambharat likened the local cocoa industry to the West Indies Cricket Team, both entities of which he said had “taken it for granted” that they will “continue to be world beaters” in their respective disciplines without regard for “the science” of the craft. He said: “I felt that we had gotten to ‘fine flavour’ status but we were not doing sufficient to maintain ourselves as world beaters in the world of cocoa. I suggested since 2015 that we move to the point of convergence where all the players in cocoa can come together so we can all collaborate.” The Minister added that while he felt “that we have reached a point of convergence” there was more work to do. “While some work has been done at the Bureau of Standards and plant varieties, I am still concerned about the intellectual property rights (gene bank) and of the potential of those outside of Trinidad and Tobago, to reach into our research work and our varieties and I think that we should be doing more to protect that,” he said.

On the point of the country’s advancements in agro-processing, the Minister remarked that “greater attention” was being placed on the “packaging” of agro-processed products, a feature which he deemed to be particularly important in marketing. He said: “As a country we have really gotten it right in terms of investment in the packaging, the branding and the labelling, as we have done with the contents.”

Also speaking at the ceremony was Professor Umaharan of the Cocoa Research Centre, who said that the World Cocoa and Chocolate Day – which takes place from September 28-29, 2018 at UWI – was geared towards sensitizing the public on the work of farmers who toil to produce cocoa beans with the aim of providing both a market and a forum where the new technologies and products developed by cocoa producers and entrepreneurs can be showcased.

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