THE STATE has allocated 500 acres of land at Felicity for the production of $6 million in rice annually, Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj announced yesterday.
“Rice has been identified as a key staple to be targeted for increased local production,” Maharaj said, speaking at a Cabinet media briefing.
He said the parcel of land involved was once owned by Caroni (1975) Limited, but in 2006 was allocated to the Ministry of National Security for the establishment of the Support and Service Battalion of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment and a military hospital. However, to date the land remains under-utilised.
Maharaj said the site has been identified as being ideal for rice cultivation and the land can produce 1,700 tonnes of rice, valued at $6 million, per annum.
“This will have a significant impact on the local rice industry,” Maharaj said. He said the Ministry will continue to supply water pumps to farmers with abstraction licences for the utilisation of water sources such as the Caroni River.
Maharaj said he reported to Cabinet yesterday on the Integrated Pest Management System implemented to control the Red Palm Mite, first reported in 2006.
“It has the potential to easily cripple the agricultural sector,” the Minister said. Palm, coconut, bananas, plantain and many other plants, such as heliconia, are potentially affected, he said. He said environmentally-friendly “biological control” was being explored.
Maharaj also announced a policy to allow for the access of service dogs for the visually impaired.
“The Ministry of Food Production recognises that the differently-abled are equal citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and ought to enjoy equal access to services available to citizens,” Maharaj said. VAT and Customs Duties are also to be removed from imports of dog equipment such as harnesses and portable kennels. He said he hoped the private sector would follow the example of the State and allow similar access.