President of the Tobago Agricultural Society (TAS) Micheson Neptune says Government’s allocation of $20 million for access roads for farmers as a step in the right direction.
Last Thursday, Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, in his mid-year review of the 2018 Budget in the Parliament, said that the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) would receive $20 million to fund expansion of an agricultural access roads programme.
Imbert also announced a $100 million allocation to the THA as being reimbursement for backpay for TRHA workers.
He also said that to meet the “demands of a tourism-driven economy, the ANR Robinson International Airport is being modernised at a cost of $500 million, excluding land acquisition. “A public-private-partnership, utilising a Build-Own-Lease-Transfer (BOLT) mechanism, would establish in 2020 the new terminal and associated works. At present, the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) is supporting the project with technical advisory services,” he told MPs.
On the matter of access roads, Neptune, speaking with Newsday Tobago on Friday, said the access roads would support farmers in terms of increasing their production of agricultural products. He said that over the years, the THA has been claiming that it could not do any work for the agriculture sector, especially on the access roads because of lack of funding.
“The agricultural sector in Tobago is moving but moving quite slowly at this point. I don’t think that it is at the stage that we expect it to be. Given the fact that the THA is now on its revitalisation programme and one of the problems is lack of proper access roads, if they are going to provide this funding, it means that it would assist the THA in terms of supporting farmers because a lot of farmers still have problems with access to their farm lands,” said Neptune.
He added: “If they (government) can really release those funds quickly, it would be of great assistance to the THA. My only hope is that once the THA gets these funds, they can apply them to the access roads that need urgent attention.”
At a post Executive Council media briefing in March, Food Production Secretary Hayden Spencer had announced that the Executive Council had approved the setting up of a team for revitalisation of the agricultural sector in Tobago.
Asked about this development, Neptune said that so far, the team, chaired by the Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, has met once.
“That team is supposed to get the action plan rolling not just for Sandals but more to revitalise the entire agricultural sector.
“The revitalisation programme is really to get the sector going again, in terms of increasing production, so while we do that, once Sandals come we would be ready.
“We don’t know when Sandals is coming, that is the first thing. What is basically being done at this time is trying to get the farmers mobilised, trying to get the revitalisation programme back on stream,” he said.