PORT OF SPAIN — Reports that the government plans to provide 10,000 acres of land in Guyana for T&T’s farmers have already stirred up discontentment within the agricultural industry.
Among the groups voicing their concerns are the T&T Agriculture Society, United Farmers Association and the T&T Cane Producers Association.
In an interview yesterday, president of the T&T United Farmers Association, Shiraz Ali, called on the government to disclose who are the farmers who would stand to benefit from farming in Guyana. He added that development of agricultural land in Guyana would not bring about a dent in T&T’s $4 billion food import bill.
Ali said any move to boost agricultural diversification in T&T should be geared at reducing this exorbitant figure which has contributed to escalating inflation.
“If those T&T farmers bring in food into the country will it not be considered imported food? This effort is not going to bring a dent on the food import bill,” he said.
Ali noted there was more than 10,000 acres of fertile agricultural land in T&T which could be developed for farming. “Local farmers are yearning for government support in terms of lease and infrastructure,” he said. “We ignore them yet we plan to take selected farmers to Guyana and give them massive loans for housing. This doesn’t make sense. What will be our return from this investment?”
He noted that farmers in Wallerfield and Carlsen Field had been begging for years for land to be regularised.
“Recently, the government gave 500 farmers two acre-leases but those farmers have no road access to lands, no water for their crops when dry season comes,” Ali said. “How can they use these lands if there is no infrastructure? Why is government concerned about satisfying its financiers and friends rather than develop agriculture in T&T.”
He noted that under the PNM, the then agriculture minister Arnold Piggott spoke about bringing 7,000 people into lucrative farming. Ali said the government should follow the same by offering leases, incentives and loans to local farmers.
Instead of offering lands in Guyana to local farmers, Ali said the government should consider setting up a mega farm in Guyana which would produce corn for animal feed production. He explained that corn was fast becoming scarce because the United States was using corn to produce biofuel. (Guardian)