JENSEN LA VENDE
AGRICULTURE Minister Clarence Rambharat says his ministry is monitoring the illegal importation of livestock from Venezuela.
In a Whatsapp response to questions sent to him, he said livestock officers and residents in South West Trinidad have seen an increase in the number of animals being transported out of the area.
“We believe these animals end up on private farms as breeding stocks and in retail outlets as meat. We also recognise that animals are sold out of private homes in areas like Endeavour in Chaguanas and over the highway in San Juan. Our vets and other animal production and health employees work with law enforcement to intercept shipments and share intelligence on the internal movement of animals. We have had some success with a few large interceptions and several smaller ones, but traffickers continue to use various tricks to get animals across the borders.”
Last Saturday, president of the Sheep and Goat Association Shiraz Khan said the illegal importation of animals is nothing new, but with the economic crisis in Venezuela, it has increased. Khan called for greater governmental intervention as he is concerned about the suitability of the meat coming from Venezuela.
“I am worried but what can we do? The Ministry of Agriculture has to do some more. There is a problem with sick animals in the country, but without the proper test to confirm that an animal is sick how could we tell?”
Rambharat said it is well established that Venezuela has been a home to Foot and Mouth Disease and a source of this disease entering other countries. This, he said, is a major concern for TT since the disease can wipe out livestock supplies.
“Given the jurisdiction of the Ministry of National Security on border protection, the ministry’s role continues to be technical support, enforcement of legal requirements for the entry of animals, meat and meat products into the country, and the education of the public regarding the risks associated with the possession and consumption of undocumented animals which have entered the country from Venezuela and elsewhere.”
Last year, veterinarian Kriyaan Singh warned of a reported increase in Canine Distemper Virus which he attributed to the increase in illegal importation of dogs from Venezuela. Carcasses have also been smuggled in and Rambharat warned last year that the meat may be contaminated. The carcasses were later incinerated after the meat began to rot. Birds and other animals are also being imported into the country illegally.