Tobago is working assiduously to position its agriculture sector as a major driver within TT’s economy.
According to Kelvin Charles, the Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, agriculture will present a significant economic opportunity in the education and tourism sectors.
He said, “Some of you are unaware that Tobago at one time was the food basket of Trinidad, and the assembly remains committed to reviving the robust and pragmatic industry we once had, whereby to increase our agriculture output.”
Despite the island’s small contribution in agriculture to TT’s GDP Charles said Tobago has "begun to reverse the trend where produce come from Trinidad,” and the island has “started to make strides in our agriculture revitalisation efforts.”
Charles was speaking Monday evening at the opening ceremony of the 33rd West Indies Agriculture Economics Conference hosted by Caribbean Agro-Economic Society, at the Division of Food Production and Fisheries, Glen Road.
He said as Tobago increases activities in the tourism sector there is now a focus on strengthening the direct link between agriculture and tourism. Charles said the island is encouraging and preparing farmers to exploit these opportunities.
He boasted the THA is already working with farmers to improve the quality of school lunches.
“We have already begun to align the menus with what is produced in our agriculture sector. We have begun to adjust them to make sure they are locally oriented, giving the farmers the opportunity to get a ready market for their produce.”
The THA has also provided training to farmers to ensure they are operating in accord with international standards.
Prof Carlisle Pemberton, the president of the Caribbean Agro-Economic Society, during the first day conference at Mt Irvine, on Monday, identified the school feeding programme as a way to foster development in agriculture throughout the Caribbean.
He said the increasing amount of imported foods used in the school feeding programme is a cause for great concern and continues to stifle the local agriculture sector.
However, by introducing locally grown foods a revolution in TT’s food production will be birthed.
At the opening ceremony, Pemberton said Tobago’s agriculture sector has changed. He attributed the blow to the sector to the impact of Hurricane Flora in 1963 and issues plaguing the cocoa industry.
“At one time Tobago was producing one-third of the cocoa produced in TT, now I’m still on the board of the Cocoa Development company and Tobago is only producing two per cent.”
Hayden Spencer, Secretary for the Food Production and Fisheries Division, said he hopes to create meaningful partnerships with the Caribbean Agro-Economic Society to recover and improve Tobago’s food security and the sustainability.
He said the THA is working on presenting agriculture as an attractive and viable business opportunity for young and seasoned farmers. “It is hoped solutions to make a significant contribution to agriculture in the Caribbean and a way forward will be derived from the rich discussion. Tobago stands ready to receive expert guidance in the development of its sector.”