Al-Rawi: Money grows on trees, it is called agriculture

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Rural Development and Local Government, Farris Al-Rawi, speaks to the media at the Food, Agriculture and Beverage Expo held at Gulf City Mall, La Romaine on Friday. – Photo by Venessa Mohammed

Saying there are countless economic growth and development opportunities in the agriculture sector, Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi believes that money does grow on trees.

“Money does grow on trees, it is called agriculture,” he said.

He cited TT’s food import bill as close to $3 billion, emphasising that people can grow their dollars.

The sustainability of that is a combination of initiatives between his ministry, the Agriculture, Land and Fisheries and the Youth Development and National Service Ministry.

“Put those three together, invite the private sector, as Southex is doing, and then you have a better chance of success,” Al-Rawi said.

He spoke on May 17 at the Food, Agricultural and Beverages (FAB) expo at Gulf City Mall in La Romaine.

Southex Ltd, led by Goerge Singh, is hosting the event, which started on May 15 and ends on May 19, with a Farmers Market over the weekend.

Al-Rawi said his ministry supports the private sector’s involvement.

“We have our own products to bring to the market. We are quite sure because we have spent a year and a half modelling and testing this. We are convinced this will make a big difference in people’s lives,” he added.

Al-Rawi, also the San Fernando West MP, was referring to his ministry’s hydroponic initiatives, which will soon become public, to promote local economic development.

He said with a $22,000 investment, someone with six hydroponic pots produces $6,500 monthly.

“That is a considerable return on investment. For $150,000, people can produce $30,000 take-home in profit. This is more than the average person earns by far,” Al-Rawi said.

“In the coming weeks, you will see us launch these products. This expo shows how you can, with entities like Cariri (Caribbean Industrial Research Institute) and others, bring value for your money with your products.”

He said the exhibitors were no longer involved in wholesale where they get pennies.

The MP said they are now into the dollars because they are packaging, labelling and selling.

San Fernando mayor Robert Parris also attended and even danced in the cocoa.

Ashley, owner of Ashley’s Only 1 Bags, showcases all of her different styles of handbags at the Food, Agriculture and Beverae Expo 2024 held at Gulf City Mall, La Romain on Friday. – Photo by Venessa Mohammed

He said he saw many striving small businesses, saying the expo allowed them to showcase their products.

The mayor said, “There were skin care products, local wines, honey, all local. Remember, Trinidad was king of cocoa, and we are still in production of that through the Ministry of Trade. So I am really happy to see that we are giving people a platform in order for them to ply their trade.”

He also commended the exhibitors for having some innovative packaging.

Parris added he was pleased that many of the products were healthy.

He, too, stressed the importance of agriculture in reducing the food import bill.

“We have to have more opportunities for agro-business in TT, and I think we are on the right track in that respect,” he said.

There are lots of incentives from the Government for people to get involved in agriculture.

“I was 21 and got the opportunity to get land and a house through agriculture; I would take advantage of it. So I am asking that the young people get into agriculture.

President at Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce (GSFCC) Kiran Singh as well as Les Efforts East / Cipero councillor Ryaad Hosein also attended the expo.

Singh said he observed 40- 60 exhibitors, from people with start-ups to experienced businesses, mainly from south Trinidad.

He encouraged people to buy and eat local products.

“It is an exciting time for people to come to experience what the south has to offer,” Singh added.