Allyson West –
PUBLIC Administration Minister Allyson West said some US$125 million (about $875 million) was spent annually in this country to import foreign-made French fries, as she urged local fast-food outlets to instead make fries out of local provisions and thereby help to reduce the country’s foreign exchange deficit.
She spoke in the Senate on Tuesday in a private motion by Independent Senator Amrita Deonarine which called for an official policy on foreign exchange allocation. West said the country’s foreign exchange reserves were fewer than eight or ten years ago, but were best improved by growing and diversifying the economy, and consuming more of what this country produces and thereby import less.
West said, “Trinidad and Tobago, in any year spends approximately US$125 million on French fries. Not potatoes, French fries.
“Can you ask me why we do that, when in TT we have available sweet potatoes, cassava, breadfruit, all of which make – nutritionally and gastronomically – superior fries to Irish potatoes.
“So we have had discussions with our fast-food outlets to encourage them to switch from the provision of French fries to the provision of fries using locally produced products. Their commitment to us was that once we can assure consistency in quality and volume, they are happy to make the switch. So the Ministry of Agriculture is working on that project.”
Otherwise, on foreign exchange allocation, West said the Government would not interfere in the free market. She said if the Government were to interfere, “Where would such interference stop?” as she asked if it would it try to direct private doctors how to do their job or direct landlords, or try to set price controls for food prices.