There is no food shortage in Tobago, THA Deputy Chief Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael said on Thursday.
“We have enough food right here to feed us, if we don’t waste it,” said BYisrael, who is also the Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection.
She made the comment during the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development’s launch of its World Food Day 2023 programme, carded for October 18-19 at the Food Hub in Shaw Park.
BYisrael's remarks came in the wake of concerns raised by the chairman of the Tobago arm of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Curtis Williams, who last week said food supplies were running low because of the removal of the cargo vessel the MV Cabo Star from service for repairs after a fire on August 23.
In a statement, Port Authority of TT (PATT) said the vessel would be docked in Port of Spain for investigation by the insurers, certification by the Maritime Services Division and repairs to the engine. It said in the interim, cargo would be transported on three other vessels – the Buccoo Reef, the APT James and the Galleons Passage – and priority would be given to food and other perishables.
PATT officials on Thursday reported a vessel would be put into service for cargo this weekend.
Addressing the situation, BYisrael said the issue in Tobago was that people did not eat enough local foods, which were being wasted.
“The situation on the island right now is one where we actually have enough food, but we do not have the appetite for the food that we have...we waste it because we want the whatever is on the shelves.”
She said it is time people think critically about what is available and what can be done with what is available.
“I am encouraging all of you – the farmers, the fishermen, those of you who are in the area of food production – to look at this critical juncture and to use every crisis as an opportunity to redefine your worth.
"We need to put ourselves on a footing where the inter-island woes do not bother us in the future, or if it bothers us, it is because we do not have transport to send food out, not because we don’t have transport to bring food in.”
Congratulating the Tobago Agri-Development Company Ltd (Tadco), BYisrael said amid all the complaints, she saw the company, “indicating to the people of Tobago, you know what? This is where we need to seriously stop and seriously think about where we are and where we are doing and what is available for us on the island.”
Secretary of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development Nathisha Charles-Pantin agreed Tadco has been doing an “awesome job” and continues to market the island's produce.
“They would continue to utilise the media platforms to advertise what the local producers have here in Tobago.
"I want to encourage Tobagonians to start capitalising on the opportunities here so that we would no longer have to depend on importing goods and services.”