AGRICULTURE Minister Clarence Rambharat said the ministry will be enforcing land covenants and removing non-compliant holders to allow for more lands for young prospective farmers.
He was contributing to the budget debate in the House on Tuesday.
He said young people have informed the ministry they would like to deploy their skills on agricultural land and many of them were from farming families where they had exhausted the land available.
"The only way to allocate land for new tenants is to enforce covenants with those who sustain land. We will ensure those who are non-compliant will be relieved of the responsibility to hold that land, and it will be distributed in a fair and transparent manner, with the priority for young farming families."
He also said said recipients of food cards will eventually stop receiving processed food and instead get produce from local farmers. He explained in the area of agriculture a main priority is to compete with imports, and the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (Namdevco) will be seeking to promote comparable and competitive products. He added Namdevco will be taking a policy position to move away from food cards for processed food and recipients will instead be receiving produce in hand.
He spoke about the $500 million to develop agriculture sector and noted Opposition members had said they could not find it in the budget. But, he said, the Finance Minister made it clear the money would be available in 2021 and he added that the best way to manage it would be through the finance ministry.
Rambharat said the $500 million will be used for a number of projects, including digital transformation in the area of land management. He reported $15 million had already been spent in that area in the two years of the project and 10,000 out of 30,000 files for agriculture, residential and institutional land have been digitalised. He said with additional resources the remaining 20,000 can be completed in 18 months to two years. He explained this will assist in delivering state land leases where they have expired, in constituencies such as Lopinot/Bon Air West, Tabaquite and Toco/Sangre Grande.
Rambharat said there were 2,390 former agricultural tenants still on Caroni lands, some active, some not. He said work will be done to give agricultural tenants to get leases for lands where they are complying with government's policy on agriculture and the first phase will be in Princes Town and Tabaquite.
"We are working hard to give people their leases."
Of the $500 million, he said $30 million will be used to repair 100 kilometres of the 900 kilometres of access roads. This will be done in two phases in areas such as Toco/Sangre Grande, Paramin, Oropouche and Fyzabad.