Integrating agricultural land into the development agenda

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A healthy crop of plantains at Clatroo Trace, Plum Mitan. – Stock photo

TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce President Charles Pashley embraced the push for a regional approach to agriculture with a call for TT to protect the land space set aside for this purpose.

He observed that the Russian-Ukrainian war, as well as the pandemic, have raised food security concerns, but without space to achieve this, Pashley does not see the vision of reducing Trinidad and Tobago by growing its own produce. in progress.

He cited statistics to show how agricultural space has shrunk over the past five decades and why it should be preserved as external factors continue to affect the country’s ability to feed itself.

“The area of ​​agricultural land in TT has gradually decreased from 1969, when we had 980 square kilometres, to our current level of around 540 square kilometres.

“The preservation of our remaining farmland for agricultural purposes must be recognized as an important part of our national development agenda.”

Advances in technology have made high-yield, small-space farming and processing possible, as one can now maximize the use of this technology to expand agricultural opportunities, Pashley observed.

The TT Chamber was one of the trade organizations that partnered with Southex Promotions to host the Food and Agriculture Expo from August 3-7 at Gulf City Mall, La Romaine.

The Supermarket Association, as well as the Guyana Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have also collaborated on the initiative, which Southex CEO George Singh hopes to turn into a regional event.

Charles Pashley, President of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce. – Stock photo

Embracing regional collaboration, Pashley said entrepreneurs have recognized the potential of the sector and there are many opportunities for greater private sector involvement and investment.

“Just recently, the Vice President of Guyana, referring to Caricom’s goal of increasing agricultural production by $1.5 billion by 2025, estimated that an additional $7.5 billion in Private sector investments are needed for the region to achieve this goal.

“Pardon the pun, but it’s food for thought. With our current capacity, even with import substitution, we must continue to trade to meet many of our basic food and nutritional needs.

“What is completely within our reach, right now, is to initiate the process of regional collaboration to ensure a safer future for our population.

“Certainly, now could not be a better time to form the strategic partnerships through which we can collectively – as a region – share resources, deliver and innovate, and be within the global framework.

He cited the IMF’s July 2022 World Economy Update, which highlighted the worsening food crisis, identifying the main driver of global food, particularly grain and wheat prices, as the war in Ukraine, and how low-income countries, where food accounts for a larger share of consumption, are feeling the effects.

“It’s really up to us here now if we can see the value of regional cooperation and make it work. I really don’t see any other way for us, given the challenges that we face, that we face as a region.

“Sea level rise, drought or storms will not target just one country – we are all at risk. As head of the TT Chamber, I call on all of us, all stakeholders and decision-makers, to form partnerships that will enable us to act urgently to address the issue of food security.

Noting that more than 60% of chamber members are small and medium-sized businesses, from the service, distribution, manufacturing and retail sectors, Pashley said it was important that agriculture and agro-processing be one of the pillars of transforming the economy and diversifying incomes away from energy.

He said the chamber will continue to take a leadership role on issues that affect the economy and business, to advocate for responsible change, and to facilitate dialogue that helps achieve a sustainable future.

Amalia H. Mercado