The 1.3 billion-dollar allocation to the agriculture sector could mean an improvement according to the President of the Tobago Agriculture Society Macheson Neptune. Speaking to Newsday on Monday night, he said he was pleased with the new agricultural financial support programme, with grants for new and existing farmers up to $100,000 which will take effect from December 1, 2017. However, he believes more money is needed to see a development in the sector.
Neptune said he is content with the $100,000 grant but hopes that this is made easily accessible to farmers in Tobago. He further stated, “he (Finance Minister Colm Imbert) said they want to place more focus on agriculture but to do that they must plough more money into that sector in terms of support for access roads and more lands available. They can give us grants but what will happen next? Accessible roads must be a priority also.
“The grant is good to encourage farmers and persons interested in farming but I hope it’s not a long weary process to get this grant. Once it is implemented as early as possible to get farmers working and producing food for Trinidad and Tobago, it will be a big improvement for the agriculture industry on both islands.”
As the Tobago Agriculture president expressed satisfaction, news of the gas price increase has troubled the fishing association in Tobago. Finance minister Colm Imbert stated that the price of super gasoline would increase from $3.58 per litre to $3.97 per litre and the price of diesel, from $2.30 per litre to $3.41 per litre. Vice President of the All Tobago Fisher Folk Association (ATFA) Curtis Douglas told Newsday Tobago that Tobagonians should expect and prepare for an increase in the price of fish from $25 to $30 a pound. Speaking to Newsday Tobago after the five-hour budget presentation on Monday night, Douglas said this increase is inevitable.
"Tobago has just been slapped in the face once more so now we want to know what the vision for Tobago is, clearly there is none. The poor man again has to face the full brunt and take the end of the stick,” Douglas said.
He added that this budget will not benefit the island. “Now this only means for Tobago that the price of goods will increase because diesel is what these trucks use to transport items from one place to the next when cargo is coming to Tobago. As we speak when gas go up, the price of fish will go up because the fishermen have to go long distances. Also there was not anything in the budget for fishermen and they talk about development and not about fishermen getting softer loans to buy engine to feed the nation.
“There was nothing in the budget for fishermen. They spoke about development for agriculture but nothing to improve the fishing industry more than Imbert and his yacht dreams. We the fishermen didn’t even get VAT off the gas, nothing was subsidised for us. This will have a ripple effect on Tobago because not only the price for fishing material would go up to buy tackling and other equipment will increase. Fishermen are in for a hard task because we will have to pay more and earn less. This was not a budget for the people."