Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat has said international co-operation has played a decisive role in guaranteeing food security in Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean countries during the covid19 pandemic.
Rambharat was speaking in an interview on Agro America, a programme broadcast by the Brazilian television station Agro Mais.
He highlighted the assistance provided by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), to strengthen technical co-operation among the countries of the hemisphere, accelerate the digital transformation of processes, and guarantee food distribution.
Rambharat said: "With the intervention and support of IICA, we were able to facilitate the release of cargo that could have been held in different ports in the Caribbean, ensuring a continuous flow of merchandise to and from TT."
Rambharat said owing to the absence of tourists in the Caribbean and the drop in world energy demand, TT had also experienced a loss of income.
However, he highlighted IICA's collaboration in the distribution of seeds throughout the country to promote family and community agriculture.
“We were able to produce 50,000 packages with different types of seeds and distribute them to families across the country. Each packet is enough to provide a 40-day supply of six essential vegetables."
Rambharat said family farming plays a central role in food security and TT's economic development.
"We made sure that during the closure, restrictions did not prevent farmers from working in their fields and we kept produce and farmers' markets open,” he said.
The most difficult aspect for the authorities was maintaining price stability for imported processed foods.
He said: “Our country depends on the import of cereals, in particular wheat, but also corn, for animal feed. Due to the pandemic, we saw an increase in the price of cereals. That affected us, but we were able to handle the situation.”
On the outlook for agriculture after covid19, Rambharat said he felt current strategies would have to be reviewed to improve efficiency.
“We cannot work in the same way, given the scarcity of resources. We will have to identify 13 or 14 strategic objectives to feed our population and ensure that our rural communities remain active, especially women.”