Ratiram: Government committee to reduce food prices ‘election ploy’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram. – Photo courtesy UNC

COUVA North MP Ravi Ratiram is warning the public against what he believes is a government plan to use a recently established committee to reduce food prices as nothing more than an election ploy.

Speaking at an orientation event on February 27, Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Minister Kazim Hosein said the Cabinet has set up a committee to lower food prices, which will be announced soon.

Ratiram questioned the timing of such a move, especially with a general election looming.

In a release on February 29, he described it as “the government’s latest attempt to hoodwink the public.

“This feeble attempt appears to be a calculated move to mask their previous failures in addressing crucial agricultural issues. It’s a transparent ploy to feign action while conveniently seeking re-election, further showcasing their lack of genuine commitment to addressing the longstanding challenges faced by our agricultural sector,” he said.

He said despite several promises by the People’s National Movement (PNM) administration to improve agricultural infrastructure and empower farmers, nothing has been done.

“What have we witnessed? A neglected sector, a dilapidated agricultural market, and a lack of investment in our agricultural sector. Their track record is one of empty rhetoric and unfulfilled commitments.”

He told the public to look out for photo ops and soundbites in the news, and the committee being a boasting point on the campaign trail. He said it will also be used to distract from the government’s failures in education, healthcare and infrastructure.

“It’s a magician’s trick – an illusion to keep us from scrutinising their abysmal governance.”

Turning to the committee’s mandate, he asked: “Will they address the root causes of rising food costs? Will they tackle import tariffs, streamline distribution channels, or invest in sustainable farming practices? NO! Instead, they’ll shuffle papers, hold meetings, and issue reports while food prices continue their upward climb.”

As evidence for his claim, he said the 2022 Agricultural Multi-Disciplinary Voluntary Advisory Committee still has not addressed major issues such as flooding caused by poorly maintained waterways; the increasing cost of fertilisers and chemicals; poor pest management and responses from the government; extremely long delays in disbursing subsidies to farmers; land tenure; and the government’s continued refusal to engage in the Leader of the Opposition’s crime talks, which have touched on the issue of praedial larceny.

“Until these issues are addressed I’m afraid that the members of this new committee and any new entrants into agriculture are only being set up to fail. The farmers and citizens of this nation deserve better. We deserve leaders who act with integrity, not those who manipulate our hunger for political gain.”

As the UNC shadow minister of agriculture, he pledged to fight alongside its leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and his colleagues, “to bring about genuine change.”