TAKING a long hard look at the ministry he leads, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat has lamented that some of the ills plaguing the agricultural and fisheries sector are of the ministry’s making.
Citing the Prime Minister’s national address, he said this had come about because the country was “being blind and not watching, as the prime minister say, not minding our business we have allowed things to get out of hand in this country.”
Addressing the inaugural National Cocoa Awards Ceremony at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in San Fernando on Sunday evening, he said the most important thing he has done since assuming ministerial portfolio in 2015 is “to bring back to life the wide range of the ministry.”
Rambharat said while the ministry was a large one, issues such as squatting had increased exponentially, and leases for land tenure seemed to take decades to be completed.
“I happen to lead a ministry that employs a lot of people –over 5,000 people – and when I talk to my farmers and my fishermen around the country, when I talk to my sawmillers, they say to me, ‘We don’t see your officers, we don’t get their support and we not getting what we need.’
“If you as the taxpayer, you have funded a land division of this ministry that I lead, you have been funding state land officers and patrolmen and a commissioner of state lands and if you as farmers can’t get a lease renewed, then something is wrong, and the person who must deal with the something that is wrong is me, the minister, while I am here.
He also said the ministry had not progressed in terms of keeping up with issues such as food safety. “Our ministry does not have the expertise, this ministry has not been a voice on food safety. Food fraud is real, fake food is real.”
Grande Riviere cocoa farmer Leroy Peters was adjudged overall winner and his bean samples, along with the bean samples from the rest of the top four, will be going to Paris to represent TT at the Cocoa of Excellence Programme International Cocoa Awards at the Salon du Chocolat.
The National Cocoa Awards competition is geared toward improving the quality of local cocoa beans, both for consumption and export, by attracting and rewarding a broad base of farmer participation.