President of the Agricultural Society of TT (ASTT) Dhano Sookoo is urging government and private sector entities alike to make more funding available for graduates of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Faculty of Food Production for start-up programmes in crop management and agricultural science.
Sookoo made the suggestions during her closing remarks of a Joint Select Committee on Land and Physical Infrastructure at the ANR Robinson Room, Parliament, on Tuesday in which she said one of the major challenges to food production was applying theoretical knowledge on crops to the field, something she said could be overcome with proper funding.
“Every year you have hundreds of graduates coming out of the UWI funded by my taxpaying dollar through the GATE programme, what am I as a consumer benefiting from this?
“These people go out there and they are unemployed, but are trained and knowledgeable in agriculture. I recommend that government look into putting a financing mechanism in place available to these young people so when they graduate they can set up a greenhouse or something.
There are challenges but we need to address the challenges appropriately.”
For his part, administrator of the Division of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries at the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Wendell Bernard called for certain provisions to be made for younger farmers as an incentive.
“One of the challenges is the cost of electricity in these set-ups, if the electricity can be provided at a cheaper cost, the farmers especially the younger ones who have very little capital.
“There has to be a public-private sector partnership, the THA can’t adequately fund agricultural development and we need private sector investment in terms of marketing and value production so the farmer will know that there is a market and profitability.”
The committee was aimed at identifying the challenges and opportunities of implementing more technologically driven methods of farming, or digital farming to maximise land use and increase crop yield.