Nathisha Charles-Pantin – THA
The Tobago Agribusiness Development Company (TADCO) will be supplying alternative flour in partnership with Novo Farms Ltd by September.
THA Secretary of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development Nathisha Charles-Pantin announced this virtually during Wednesday’s post-Executive Council news conference from the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, National Flour Mills and Nutrimix announced that wheat flour prices were being raised by up to 33 per cent.
Charles-Pantin said already an MOU (memorandum of understanding) has been signed.
“The idea is to supply flour not only to Tobago, but throughout TT. Novo Farms, they are already ready in Trinidad, and in the month of July, they would be supplying flour to Trinidad.
“TADCO would come on board and of course the processing would be done in Tobago.
“So we’re appealing to farmers to continue planting and up your supplies, because we want your cassava and dasheens to process alternative flour.”
The equipment, she said, is already in Tobago and flour would be processed at the packing house in Shaw Park.
Questioned about the amount that would be processed, she said: “National Flour Mills want six tonnes from us. Together with Novo, they want 16 tonnes, and this is monthly. We are negotiating.”
She said she welcomed the new initiative, as alternative flour is healthy.
“The flour will be made out of cassava and dasheen, and of course it would target especially the low-income households. We all would be able to afford the alternative flour, so I welcome it,(and) I know Tobago will welcome it.”
She said she has been using alternative flour from the local producers, describing it as an excellent product.
“I’ve used flour made from even yam and plantains. So we can make flour from anything local, provision or vegetable, it seems, because people are coming up with so many creative ways, making creative use of what we have on the island.
“Even breadfruit flour I’ve had. I’ve made roast bake I’ve had from breadfruit flour. I’ve had buss-up shut from breadfruit.
“So I welcome it, and I know Tobagonians are looking for an alternative, and this is something that our parents and grandparents would have used in our kitchens and making flour from it, I know everyone would welcome it.”
At supermarkets on Wednesday, cashiers said there was no rush when the news was announced the previous day.
At one supermarket, Jason Paul said the price increase would not affect his family even though his wife was an avid baker.
“This is the second increase but thankfully, my family had already switched things up to the healthier side, so we were already in the habit of purchasing locally-produced provision flour, so we are marked safe.”
Paul said the price increases are still concerning.
“Two increases in one year is ridiculous though. There is nothing out here for low-income people really, because are we going to get a salary increase as well?”
A woman shopping nearby said flour was a necessity.
“We have to live – no matter what kind of flour, we have to buy it because we have to feed ourselves and our families, so regardless of increases or not, we would buy it.”
One bakery owner who did not want to be identified said she had no intention of raising prices at this time.
“I mean, how much can I really increase? I did an increase in my prices when the prices went up earlier but to do that again, I would say is a little heartless.”
She added: “I would have to monitor it and see how it goes, but for now I won’t increase my prices.”
These sentiments were echoed by a doubles vendor who said: “This is sad. I already sell one doubles at $6 – how much higher can I go? I will have to monitor the situation, but for now I don’t see any increases.”
Supermarkets on the island could not confirm the new cost for wheat flour as they still had old stock on hand.