THE Prime Minister declared that only the PNM has made meaningful efforts to develop agriculture in TT and the $90 million Moruga Agro-Processing and Light Industrial Park provides tangible evidence of this.
Addressing the opening of the park at Samuel Trace, Moruga on Tuesday, Dr Rowley also said TT can look forward to a boosting of domestic agriculture, including an increase in the production of fresh milk.
Rowley recalled that while campaigning with former Moruga/Tableland MP Dr Lovell Francis in the constituency in 2015, “I made a promise five years ago asked to support a candidate in the PNM.”
He said that promise was that if Moruga/Tableland constituents voted for Francis and the PNM formed the government, “there was a vision amongst us that we would bring change and opportunity to the people of the south coast.” He said the opening of the park, the first of its kind in TT, was the fulfillment of that vision. “I feel very satisfied.”
He was also satisfied that Francis was present to see this promise become a reality. Rowley, a registered farmer, observed there “is lot of talk about agriculture in this country especially from people who know nothing about agriculture.” He said there was a document presented by one of the PNM’s political opponents “to start some business with cocoa and to mix with sugar to make chocolate.”
Rowley said what they did not know was that cocoa was one of the products which the park will be focusing on. He predicted that soon TT will no longer export cocoa beans to London “but something of higher value.” Rowley declared, “We are well ahead of a policy in a manifesto.”
Rowley identified pineapple as another crop which will be developed at the park. He wondered if most people knew about the quality of local pineapple or that most of the pineapple used as pizza toppings are imported. Rowley explained that the park could boost local pineapple production to an extent which could result in a reduction in an estimated $30 million in pineapple imports.
He reminded his audience that in the 2019/2020 Budget, Government made agriculture a tax free industry. He said this would men and women into agriculture. Rowley said many women run successful small businesses in agriculture and agro-processing.
He said Government also brought in more planting material for the agricultural sector over the last five years.
Rowley said the former PP government did nothing to boost livestock production in TT. Through a public private sector partnership, Rowley said Government has been able to revitalise its 1,200 acre farm at Aripo, boosting the cattle there from 200 in 2015 to 1,000 now.
While Nestle is only getting ten per cent of milk from local farmers, Rowley said the farm at Aripo “would begin to supply “Nestle with milk and when the farm is fully operational, it will double the natl production of fresh milk to Nestle.”