SUCCESS IN THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR
Statement by Minister of Food Production Senator the Honorable Devant Maharaj
Thank you very much Mr. President.
Mr President, it is indeed a privilege to rise in this august chamber once again to deliver a statement on the Food Production Sector.
Mr President, the FACTS are that for the first time in twenty years this country has recorded significant growth in every sector; the economy is growing despite the global economic turmoil and unemployment levels are at historic lows. How did we achieve this, Mr President? This government’s “Framework for Sustainable Development” provided the policy framework for the successes being enjoyed by ALL citizens EVERYWHERE.
Mr President, with regards to food production, worldwide there is growing concern by governments surrounding the issues of food and nutrition security; rising food prices; food price volatility; declining production levels due to climate change; rising demand due to economic and population growth in developing countries; and pressure on food supplies due to the increased demand for bio-fuels.
As such, since 2010 this Peoples Partnership government has been rolling out its policies and activities for the agriculture sector so as to mitigate the external economic shocks whilst at the same time providing a sufficiently sound enabling environment to promote growth in the sector. More specifically Mr President, the various policies and programmes developed by Ministry of Food Production recognized that agricultural development depended on the simultaneous growth of agricultural production and the value chains to which it is linked.
Mr President, please permit me to demonstrate, by way of example, the success we at the Ministry of Food Production have had to date:
With respect to the increase in production in the agriculture sector, the Ministry of Food Production noted that the dominant mode of production was the ‘family farm’ and understands that it was their investment in the sector that drove agricultural production. As such, the Ministry set about to build the capacity of this cohort of farmer and to provide the enabling environment to facilitate easier access to credit and sustainable linkages to markets.
Further, and as was reported on a previous statement to this Senate, the Ministry has formed a state company called Caroni Green Ltd to buttress the drive for increased production by cultivating under-utilized lands.
Mr President, these two policy directives have produced significant results. Indeed, for the first time in twenty-one (21) years, due to these policies, the government of Trinidad and Tobago has been able to keep the food price inflation rate at single digits for the first five consecutive months of the year.
Just to elaborate, for January 2014 it was 3.2%; for February 2014 it was 5.2%; for March 2014 it was 6.7%, for April 2014 the figure came in at 4.1% and for May the food inflation rate stood at 3.8%.
Mr President, in order to sustain the successes we have been experiencing on the production side the Ministry of Food Production has been strategically linking local production to local markets.
You would note Mr President that the Ministry has been aggressively promoting the consumption of locally grown foods via our Eat Local campaign. This attempt to brand locally produced food as a preferred option has begun to bear fruit. I am happy to report to this honourable Senate that the Ministry is at the tail end of negotiations with the following companies to provide local inputs to their product lines:
National Flour Mills
National Schools Dietary Services
These initiatives have been crafted in such a way so as to enable as many small farmers as possible to be linked to these market opportunities.
Mr President, we at the Ministry of Food Production are confident in the success of this strategy because the empirical data we have from partnering with the School Nutrition Programme (SNP) demonstrates this fact.
The Ministry of Food Production partnered with the School Nutrition Programme (SNP) with the following mandate:
To utilize as far as possible, local produce/products for the preparation of school meals.
To use the Further Processing Approach, to obtain a high quality product, in sufficient volumes, with proper post harvest handling, food safety and packaging at a competitive price and,
To build capacity among local farmers thus increasing their participation in the School Nutrition Programme at a community level
The results coming out from this initiative was very heartening.
Permit me to share with this honourable chamber some of our findings:
The yearly usage of:
Cabbage went from 296,700 lbs in 2010 to 593,400 lbs in 2014
Dasheen went from 28,463 lbs in 2010 to 51,750 lbs in 2014
Pumpkin went from 292,860 lbs in 2010 to 488,100 lbs in 2014
Tomatoes went from 77,862 lbs in 2010 to 153,000 lbs in 2014
Cassava went from 82,800 lbs in 2010 to 207,000 lbs in 2014
Sweet Potato went from 96,600 lbs in 2010 to 138,000 lbs in 2014
Mr President, in short, farmers were able to either double and or triple the local food input over the last four years for twenty one commodities identified by the School Nutrition Programme (SNP) as part of this eat local campaign.
This translated into a seventy percent (70%) increase in local food content in the menus of the School Feeding Programme, up from thirty percent (30%) in 2010.
This success is in part due to the development and promotion of the School Nutrition Programme’s local menus, such as:
Hot Cassava Salad
Cassava pumpkin muffins
Ground provision in the Vegetable Soup
Frozen spinach used in Spinach Rice & whole-wheat Spinach & Cheese pies
Frozen Bodi used in Vegetable Combos
More fruits used for breakfast service
Mr President, the success of the Ministry of Food Production over the last four years has been in large measure to the Ministry’s policy of developing appropriate agricultural development strategy for promoting investment in the sector.
These strategies simultaneously seek to stimulate the increase production of Food whilst expanding the value chains and strengthening and deepening markets.
Mr President, all the indicators point to the continued growth and expansion of the Food Production Sector. As such, I wish to acknowledge the highly motivated and productive staff of the Ministry of Food Production for the work and dedication they continue to offer to the People of Trinidad and Tobago.
And, I give you the assurance, Mr President, that this Peoples Partnership government will continue to work towards making Trinidad and Tobago a more Food Secure Nation.
I Thank you Mr President.