The Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat has said that a considerable percentage of the vehicles acquired by so-called farmers under the Ministry’s current incentive structure, were “vanity purchases” which “never ended up on a farm or with fruit, vegetables or fish on it.”
Such was the reason why the Minister said that in 2016, he commissioned a comprehensive review of all existing incentives and sought, with the support of the Minister of Finance, to introduce a new agricultural incentive which he hoped would “raise the bar” and be the “model” for financial support to serious farmers. Minister Rambharat made these comments on Saturday 15th September, 2018, in delivering the Feature Address at the launch of the new South Branch Office of the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) on Gordon Street in San Fernando. Synonymous with this launch was the reintroduction of ADB’s Mobile Banking Unit.
The Minister revealed that this “new $100,000 grant” – carded to be launched before the end of September – was “not for everyone” but for those farmers who were “currently in production and needed a particular intervention that would either lead to: increased production; sustainability; resistance to climate change as well as improvement in health and safety conditions.” He said: “This grant is expected to be focused in that only genuine, productive and motivated applicants will be permitted access to this reward of funding which I believe, would help to make good farmers, better farmers.”
In commending the ADB on its 50th Anniversary milestone and launch of its new South headquarters, Minister Rambharat urged staff to be constantly reminded of the expectation that came with their newly acquired abode. He said: “I really hope that your physical environment leads to more productivity because it is easy to get caught up with the office and not the purpose, which is, dealing with the business of the farmers in a more expeditious and efficient manner.”
Minister Rambharat was particularly pleased with the reintroduction of the Mobile Banking Unit, which he hoped would expand ADB’s reach to those rural communities – such as his hometown Mayaro – where persons may otherwise not be physically able to access nor participate in the Bank’s wide range of services. “Transportation and mobility are very important segments of economic development and if that Mobile Banking Unit on four wheels can reach people who desire that kind of support and service and it could make a difference in their lives, then it will be well worth the investment,” the Minister said. He added: “I hope it puts more mileage on the road than the 200,000 km I have amassed over the last three (3) years since becoming a Minister.”
As part of his Address at the function, Chairman of the ADB, Mr. Winston Rudder sought to reflect on ADB’s relevance which he defined by its reputable ability to provide support to those along the agricultural value chain who require a comprehensive and dedicated financial support system to make their agri-business prospects, viable and profitable. He said: “What we celebrate today is but a modest attempt by the Bank to improve the extent to which it is more efficient and more efficacious in bringing our services to the community to whom we must serve.”
Mr. Rudder also noted that the time would soon come when the Bank may have to revisit its business model and assess whether or not its dependence on subventions from the State, augers well for a sustainable enterprise given its rate of expansion and increased client financing envisaged in the coming years.
Also speaking at the event were ADB’s: Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sheivan Ramnath; Corporate Manager – Risk and Compliance, Mr. Larry Kowlessar; Corporate Manager – Business Development, Ms. Wendy Samsundar-Beharry; Manager – South Branch Office, Ms. Sharda Sookram-Mohammed and Corporate Manager – Communications, Ms. Dawn Daniel.