A lack of policy and legislative framework is responsible for concerns over national food security and productivity, according to Agricultural economist, Omardath Maharaj. He said specific objectives and goals for stakeholders in the Agricultural sector was needed now more than ever as government seeks to boost revenue.
Maharaj issued a release in which he urged public and private sector stakeholders to organise basic agricultural commodity production, marketing, and processing in order to revive TT’s agricultural sector. Citing reported increases in the importation of bananas from Jamaica and the expressed interest to begin importing potatos and yams.
“TT’s position of declining foreign exchange earnings and reserves has allegedly put greater pressure on our capacity to import although the food import bill continues to rise. We remain hard-pressed to report expansion in food production and any permanent displacement of import dependency.
“According to UN COMTRADE Statistics, TT would have imported just over $231 million in bananas and plantains between 2010 and 2015 primarily from Suriname, Dominican Republic, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
He added that current policies were woefully inadequate to protect local producers and said strengthening of local policies was necessary in order to reduce food import bills and also satisfy local demand. He added that farmers not only lose out to foreign importers but also face damage from flooding each year.
Despite these challenges, Maharaj expressed optimism that the agricultural sector despite neglect holds great potential in not only absorbing local demand but also providing much needed foreign exchange if the proper policies are implemented.