Kazim Hosein –
LONGSTANDING inefficiencies in the distribution and administration of state lands, including lands for agricultural use, resulted in Government being unable to collect $500 million in rent from some of those lands in 2020.
Agriculture Minister Kazim Hosein made the comment in the House of Representatives on Friday, as he rejected claims from Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram that the PNM created a food crisis in Trinidad and Tobago.
Hosein said challenges involving the distribution and execution of leases for state agricultural lands has dogged TT for at least 30 years.
“The Government makes no apologies for making the grant of state land leases and the renewal of expired leases a priority in the expansion of our local food supply.”
Hosein said, “At the heart of this transformation is the creation of an IT-based single point of authority for the management and administration of state land.” He added this will “enable the State to better manage its agricultural estates and other leases and collect rent due.”
Former agriculture minister Clarence Rambharat is reported to be involved in this initiative. Hosein replaced Rambharat in a Cabinet reshuffle on March 16, after he resigned as a government minister and senator.
Hosein reminded MPs that three people who were employees of the ministry’s land management division were recently charged with fraud matters relating to state lands.
Rambharat is a witness in at least 50 criminal investigations relating to land fraud after he had to personally investigate and compile evidence to root out corruption involving government employees.
Hosein recalledRatiram’s condemnation of National Marketing Development Company’s (Namdevco) food box programme to provide food to families during the covid19 pandemic.
“A total of 139,906 market boxes were delivered over the period May 2021 to September 2021 and an 49,075 chicken and frozen provision packages to forty-nine thousand and seventy-five (49,075) families in the May to September 2021.”
Last September, Hosein continued, Namdevco purchased 1.3 million pounds of local produce from 212 farmers spread across 59 parts of TT, including Couva North.
This produce included 218,000, 136,000, 109,000 and 144, 000 pounds of cassava, dasheen, plantain and squash respectively. He said the majority of the 212 farmers who provided product to Namdevco, produced crops on state land made available to them as far back as the 1950’s under successive PNM governments.
“Where is the neglect?”
Ratiram accused Government of turning a deaf ear to the cries of the population when it came to food security. “They need to step out of the state of denial that they are in.” Ratiram claimed that rising food prices was causing an increase in shoplifting. “Parents are slipping baby formula under their clothes.” Ratiram observed that even the Prime Minister, who is a registered farmer, was a victim of predial larceny.
“His peacock was stolen from his farm.” He boasted that Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was more compassionate as prime minister and launched a food security campaign in 2011. Persad-Bissessar, who turned 70 on Friday, was absent for the sitting.