Tobago farmers pleased with $1.3b for agriculture

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Farmer Kyle Joseph, left, and NKosi Toney, hold kids at Melchi Farms Ltd, Carnbee, Tobago. File photo/David Reid

The Tobago Agriculture Society says it is pleased with the measures that have been announced for the sector in the 2023 budget.

Agriculture received an allocation of $1.3 billion.

In his presentation in the House of Representatives on Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the government was committed to boosting local production geared toward agro-processing to reduce the reliance on highly processed imported food. This, he said, is in keeping with the Caricom agenda.

He added the government also intends to build a more effective sector based on sustainable value chains using innovation, digitisation and technology, engagement of the private sector, small farmers, youth and women.

Imbert said the government was also focusing on root crop flour as a cheaper alternative to wheat flour, the price of which continues to increase as a result of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Micheson Neptune, a farmer for the last 20 years, cuts lettuce for sale at his garden in Mt Pleasant, Tobago. File photo/David Reid

The minister said the government intends to expand the enterprise base for root drop flour by extending the financial coverage of the Grant Fund Facility from 50 to 75 per cent and increase the maximum funding amount from $250,000 to $340,000 for all producers of alternatives to wheat flour.

On Thursday, the Tobago Agricultural Society’s PRO Hollis Alexander told Newsday agriculture “seems to be on the right track.” However, he said he is yet to determine if this is really so as “I am not in possession of all the data on areas of agriculture, vegetative and animal husbandry, farming acreage, techniques, projected yields, pest and diseases and market capacity to give a definite answer as to agricultural growth.”

Alexander said many of these areas were “touched on by financial inputs” in the presentation.”But it remains to be verified whether such inputs are enough or less than adequate.”

Alexander said the society is of the view that the $57.6 billion budget was balanced. He said they have seen positive growth patterns over the last three years in various key sectors of the economy, the targeted areas of growth for the next fiscal year, the focus on sustainable development in manufacturing, tourism, digitisation, infrastructure, housing and agriculture in both Trinidad and Tobago.

“We cannot help but conclude that it is balanced and well thought out with a view to continuing to build on what has been an attempt to diversify revenue, income streams, while decreasing expenditure overall plus managing debt repayment responsibly.”