MINISTER of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat is insisting that there is no risk to the agricultural plant stock at the St Augustine Nurseries, even if a portion of the land is allocated housing.
In fact, Rambharat told Newsday in a text message, the 25 acres that will used to build some 500 Housing Development Corporation units, include plants that have been afflicted with the Citrus Greening disease and need to be removed anyway. “There is no unique germplasm in that area,” he said.
Members of the Agricultural Society, including former Agriculture Minister Vasant Bhararth, disagreed. In a media conference today, Bharath and Agriculture Society president Dhano Sookhoo insisted that any development of the land would destroy what is the biggest and most unique collection of indigenous fruit trees in the Caribbean, several of which are the original plants from which the entire local sector is built.
A germplasm is a living genetic resource, such as seeds or tissues, used for animal and plant breeding, preservation, and other research. “This germplasm cannot be duplicated, and includes essentially all our local fruit trees, including breadfruit, grapefruit, oranges, sapodilla, pommerac, pommecytheres, and several more,” Bharath said, adding that the issue is one of food security before votes.
Bharath said when he, Sookhoo and other members of the Agricultural Society attempted to give the media a tour of the area in North Grove, Curepe, armed police, allegedly on the instruction of the Minister, prevented them from entering. Rambharat denied this. “I was not present and I am not aware of what happened on the site today,” he said. The entire parcel of land in question measures about 220 acres, and Rambhrath acknowledged that it had been neglected and needs to be better managed.