The announcement of the Cabinet of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago via the Honourable Prime Minister to close down Caroni Green Limited only continues to reinforce the perception that the PNM Administration has no clear understanding of the agricultural sector nor does it have any plans to develop any sector of the economy in a meaningful manner.
The Prime Minister pivoted the argument to close Caroni Green on the points that the company was competing with the private sector and was making a loss. One wonders if the Honourable Prime Minister will take the same logic and apply it to CNMG who also competes with private media houses and operates at a loss and costs the taxpayers millions annually. Similarly Caribbean Airlines, Petrotrin, PTSC, National Petroleum and several other state companies cost the taxpayers of the country millions and compete unsuccessfully with the private sector. Or does the Prime Minister economic logic only apply to the agriculture sector located primarily in the areas where the Opposition support is strong ?
In his post-Cabinet contribution Dr. Rowley made several allegations about the operations about Caroni Green which were simply false and if those statements were the basis of the decision to close Caroni Green then clearly the decision was a bad one.
Of the onset it was clear that the Prime Minister did not know about Caroni Green when it called it a pepper company competing with the private sector. Caroni Green has been involved in the development of several crops including papaya, plantain, etc. Caroni Green Limited has been facilitating import substitution of peppers successfully that created a cadre of small entrepreneurs who can have a reliable supply of peppers and have a sustainable business.
Dr. Rowley stated that Caroni Green costs the taxpayers money annually where the cost was $6 million and the revenues were only $700,000. The start-up costs including land and road development as well as repayment to a foreign investor as a result of government reneging on a substantial investment in the agricultural sector. In fact when Caroni Green was started in 2014 a seed capital was advanced to the company via a EU Grant. Since then no money was given to the company from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. In fact in 2016 Caroni Green showed a profit.
The Prime Minister asserted that only a handful of workers will be affect (aka lose their jobs) in fact there will be close to a 100 persons (20 Administative staff and 80 daily paid labourers) on the breadline as a result of this decision.
When Dr. Rowley served as Minister of Agriculture his tenure was distinguished with the closure of many institutions of that Ministry. Now as Prime Minister the close down approach is being applied at a national level.
Former Minister of Agriculture