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In this trying season, let’s turn to agriculture

The much anticipated 2020-2021 Trinidad and Tobago Budget was read on October 5, with the follow-up debate on Friday 9. With post-budget talks reflecting fears of further devaluation of our currency and other worrying economic possibilities, one thing is for sure, the development of the agriculture industry is the most promising solution alleviating these facts and fears.

The Minister of Finance proudly indicated that the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries will profit from a $500 million stimulus package in addition to the $1.198 billion already allocated. This symbolises a 70 per cent increase from last year’s funding, which is great news.

This funding will allow the “rapid expansion in production and marketing of selected high-demand commodities” like fruits and vegetables with short growth cycles and ruminant livestock, according to the Minister. This sort of growth also extends to sourcing high quality seeds, usage of more sustainable feed-stock and addressing granting easier access to land tenure and idle state lands.

These plans for the funds offer a lot of hope that the development of the agriculture industry will benefit our country immensely, especially during these unpredictable times. In ways such as forming stronger linkages between food distribution chains to make locally produced foods more desirable.

With accelerated development, more modern and technological agricultural systems can be created to improve crop yields. Investment in precision agriculture would grant more control over variable crop farming. This will boost availability to our local food supply, making it easier to save on importation bills.

It is important to mention that while “we have been able to meet our demand for food through imports, we can no longer tolerate such a high food import bill”, according to the Finance Minister and these plans will support reducing our dependency on imported food.

Similarly, our dependence on fossil fuels for revenue needs to be cut down. The near complete collapse of the oil and gas sector due to its unsustainable nature and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the issue of stabilising our food security to be a top priority.

The budget outlined the government’s awareness of this need and the plan to use the funds to engage in vertical farming, develop mariculture and aquaculture. These are some of the plans in place to deal with recent job cuts in the oil and gas sector.

By expanding the agribusiness sector with the development of bioethanol and biodiesel, making more public-private partnerships and investments in livestock technology, our rising unemployment rates can be improved and more jobs be made available.

Additionally, the call for individual action was a serious component of this development plan. The promotion of using home gardens and creating community agriculture programmes was set out as a major strategy to be explored.

This was suggested alongside increasing education campaigns to inform of the pros of supporting local produce to lead healthier lives. This call to action should be picked up by citizens as we do have the power to shift the state of our economy and improve our financial situations and food security in this way.

All of these potential plans and resulting benefits will be facilitated by the establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Agriculture and Bio-Technology using already existing resources from state agencies under the arm of agriculture.

With the current state of affairs, agricultural development provides the most perfect policy plan to not only survive but thrive as a nation in this trying season.

Keeping in mind that almost all countries in the world are suffering similarly, it is up to the minds that think of the most progressive plans early to ensure we emerge from this on our feet.

Every citizen is now welcomed to be a part of the agricultural community as steps are being taken to become a nation that adapts to the new financial order of the world, agriculture-based economies.


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