Karl Murray, technical officer of the THA Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development. – THA
Karl Murray, technical officer of the THA Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development, says although agricultural land has been distributed to Tobagonians over the years, this has not resulted in increased production.
Saying Tobagonians still import more than 80 per cent of the food they consume from Trinidad, he said, “There needs to be a rational approach and it must be sustainable. It must make sense. We have been giving out state lands for quite a while, but we have not been seeing the returns that makes sense.
As a result, he said, these areas were not as productive as they needed to be, “And we are saying that there needs to be a new approach. There must be a strategic move to grow certain aspects of the agricultural sector through industry development.”
He was speaking on Tuesday during a consultation for farmers and agro-processors at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, hosted by Tobago Agribusiness Development Company.
Murray spoke on Farmland Development and Incentives.
He said over the last two decades, there has been increased interest among Tobagonians in state lands for agriculture.
Saying there are currently over 1,200 applications for state lands on the island to be reviewed, he believes the actual figure is much higher.
Murray said some are for agriculture, while others are for commercial and ecclesiastical purposes. Land has also been distributed to non-governmental organisations to set up facilities.
“But over the years, the distribution process has deteriorated into an ad-hoc process – ad-hoc meaning there is not an overall rational approach to how we do it.”
Everyone applies for state land, he said, “And there is no real guiding process as to how we position and strategically direct agricultural production in Tobago so that we could get the type of returns we are expecting from the limited resources that we have.”
Murray said giving out land does not necessarily mean there will be increased production.
“But the division has now conceptualised a new approach from what existed within the last decade or two in terms of how we develop and distribute lands for agriculture.
He said to increase agricultural production in Tobago, “There must be a return of many of the lands – especially the land that are arable lands and suitable for agriculture – to return as much land as we can back to agricultural production.”
Darren Henry, acting assistant conservator of forests; Alisha James, information and technology specialist; Orwin Dillon, director of crops; Melissa Williams-Reid, director of livestock; and Dale Lovelace, director of processing, also spoke.