02 Nov 2017
According to the United Nations Statistics Division (2007), 5 130km2 of the land is agricultural land. The main agricultural crops grown in Trinidad and Tobago are cocoa, coffee, rice, citrus and vegetables. These are all produced locally but are not sufficient for the demand, like rice, in which approximately 95% of its local consumption is imported. Hence government encourages agricultural diversification. However other crops like coffee, hot peppers are exported to New York, Miami and Toronto (Trinidad and Tobago Export Directory n.d.).
Farmers in Trinidad and Tobago have adopted more modern technology-based modes of production in order to enhance agricultural production within the country. Such methods include, hydroponics, drip irrigation, greenhouses, grow boxes, verti-grow and polyculture. These mechanisms are gaining increasing popularity locally as more farmers become more knowledgeable and skilled.
Farmers in Trinidad generally require a lot of input into their types of agricultural practice. These inputs involve a lot of capital in order to maintain sustainability and high quality and quantity yields. Human agricultural inputs include land availability, machinery, fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, workers and transport in addition to taxes, crop insurance, property insurance, and the list goes on.
Traditionally, the main foreign market for Trinidad and Tobagoâ€™s agricultural products has been Europe. However, in recent years, since the closure of the sugarcane plantation, export markets were limited mainly to the Caribbean countries. Small markets in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom still exists which contribute to our foreign market exports. As for domestic markets, several Farmersâ€™ Markets located in most of the cities and towns throughout the country.
The current food import bill remains at US$4million and is projected to increase by 2015. Rice, wheat, corn, vegetables, fresh fruits and nuts as well as, root crops such as, dasheen and eddoes, comprise the majority of crops imported into Trinidad and Tobago which account for the high import bill. Trinidadâ€™s current primary food import partners include the United States, Canada, The Caribbean, India, China and The Netherlands, in order of importance. The increasing food import bill has forced the government of Trinidad and Tobago to establish strategies to curb this increase.
Since the energy sector, which Trinidad and Tobago is known for is unstable due to price fluctuations, the government is encouraging agricultural diversification to help the economy. By increasing its investment in the agricultural sector, raising the Agricultural Development Bankâ€™s lending rate and by reserving acres of land for rice and citrus production, the government is encouraging the expansion of this economy. Other policies/incentives include; the Farming Training Centre, Large Farms Project, National Agri-Business Development Programme, Farmersâ€™ Market and the National Agricultural Market Information Systems.
Throughout the years in Trinidad and Tobago, farmers have been faced with numerous problems that have even forced some of them to abandon the sector. They are with destruction of their productive farmlands by the government, leaving them deprived of basic amenities like food and money. There is the lack of a land tenure policy which means that the land some farmers cultivate on is not theirs. Praedial larceny is a major problem as farmers constantly have their produce stolen. Another problem is flooding and the lack of agricultural insurance and so when farmers have had their crops destroyed by this natural disaster, it is difficult for them to be compensated efficiently. Also, during the dry season, they are faced with drought, another natural disaster. Pests and diseases are a menace to the farmers as they obstruct their livelihood. In addition, farmers encounter capital and infrastructural problems in terms of setting up their business and directing it. Persons tend to migrate out of rural areas and into cities, thus leaving farmers with a shortage of labor. Growers also encounter competition from other growers.
According to the United Nations Statistics Division (2007), the total square area of land and agriculture is 5 130km2 with 540km2 agricultural land and 41% of agricultural land is used for permanent crops. Thus 70 km2 of the land is irrigated (the WORLD FACTBOOK 2013) to support local agriculture through subsistence and peasant farming as previously mentioned.
Trinidad and Tobagoâ€™s climate is suitable for cocoa trees, so one of the main agricultural crops is cocoa. Other main crops involved are rice, citrus, coffee and vegetables like tomatoes which are exported as well as cocoa, coffee and citrus (COMMONWEALTH NETWORK n.d.). Also, coffee and hot peppers are exported to New York, Miami and Canada (Trinidad and Tobago Export Directory n.d.). Other crops involved are coconuts, cassava, sweet potato, mangoes, cucumbers and pineapples to name a few. Prior to these crops was the intensive and extensive production of sugar, which eventually crumbled due to unprofitability. The government then encouraged diversification since the decline in the sugar industry and also because the energy sector is considered an unstable source of revenue. Another export crop is cut flowers and other alternative export crops are being investigated as a means of diversifying (COMMONWEALTH NETWORK n.d.).
Figure : Cocoa Plantations in Trinidad and Tobago There are several cocoa plantations or estates in Trinidad and Tobago. Some of which are; Grande Agro Tourism Ltd., Rancho Quemado Estate Ltd. in San Fernando, Tobago Cocoa Estate, Tobago Cocoa Farmers Association and San Antonio Estate in Gran Couva Trinidad. The latter is the place in which all the cocoa grown by Montserrat Cocoa Farmers are collected (Trinidad & Tobago Chocolatiers, Cocoa Farmers, Chocolate Events & Resources n.d.)
Not only does Trinidad and Tobago grow and cultivate cocoa, but the country also tries to improve its quality and marketability. There are therefore, Government Organizations for Chocolate and Cocoa like the; CCIB, Cocoa Research Unit (UWI) which was then changed to the Cocoa Research Centre in November of last year and the Cocoa Research Division of T&T Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs (ibid).
Source: Trinitario Cacao Resource, UWI.
The Minister of Food Production and Marine Affairs formed the Cocoa and Coffee Industry Board (CCIB) which serves to, "secure the most favourable arrangements for the purchase, sale, handling, grading, exportation and marketing of cocoa and coffee for the benefit of the Cocoa and Coffee industry" (Ministry of Food Production 2011). This not only produces better quality cocoa, but also increases its marketability.
Rice is cultivated in Trinidad and Tobago but is not sufficient to feed the population, thus plans to revitalize this crop were made by the Ministry of Food Production, Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ASTT) and by FT FARFAN (ibid). The famous rice field is the Caroni Rice field but there are also farms in Cunupia and Bejucal to name a few. The Bejucal fields are approximately 100 acres, small land area for cultivation but relatively flat terrain with irrigation schemes. The rice produced is for local markets only.
For the period of 2011-2012, the production of rice was 2 273 tonnes and the target production for 2012-2013 is 3 000 tonnes while the consumption for 2011-2012 was 33 636 tonnes, much greater than the production patterns for the 2012-2013 period (Ministry of Food Production n.d.). By 2013-2014 it is expected to produce 5 000 tonnes and by 2014-2015 7 500 tonnes. The government made production targets for main crops like rice, vegetables and fruits such as citrus, in an attempt to become self-sufficient (ibid).
According to Maharaj, the citrus fields produce inefficient yields for what local companies are demanding and in 2012, 200 acres of land was distributed to farmers and those who were interested in citrus production. The Government attempts to improve the citrus productions in Todds Road, La Gloria (Hassanali 2013). The 2011-2012 citrus consumption was 32 271 tonnes while the production was only 1 537 tonnes. The yields are expected to increase until 1 614 tonnes by 2012-2013, then 1 695 tonnes and continue until 1 780 tonnes in 2014-2015 period (Ministry of Food Production n.d.).
According to a report entitled, COCONUTS- Competitiveness and Regional Strategy, the coconut acreages are approximately 15 000 hectares and mainly located in the south and east of Trinidad and the west of Tobago. St. Patrick and the Nariva and Mayaro areas are the main commercial areas for the coconut industry (Singh 2008). The coconuts are difficult to harvest as the trees are very tall, around 40 feet.
Vegetables like tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, hot peppers, pumpkin, melongene, ochro and dasheen bush are all produced locally. In 2011-2012 the consumption of tomatoes was 2 600 tonnes while the production rate was slightly lower, 2 150 tonnes. It is expected to increase by 2014-2015 to 3 100 tonnes (Ministry of Food Production n.d.). The other vegetables are also expected to increase in yield by 2014-2015 since Ministry of Food Production realized that for this vision to work, the acreages of the land under cultivation must also be increased. For example, an additional 1 700 ha of land for increase production of rice, 405 ha for cassava 121 ha for sweet potato (ibid).
Even though local food production is low and government is aiding in the increase, some crops are exported mainly to the Americas and Europe. Locally grown crops such as cocoa and coffee are also exported. Other export oriented crops can be seen below.
(Ministry of Food Production n.d.)
Having a greater variety of local crop production will increase the consumption patterns locally and may also be viable for export. This will in turn decrease the need for importations.
"The mode of production is a central concept in Marxism and is defined as the way a society is organized to produce goods and services. It consists of two major aspects: the forces of production and the relations of production" (Wikipedia, 2012). The production process usually involves the interaction among the object, implements and instruments of labour.
In Trinidad and Tobago, farmers utilize different modes of production for crop production including, conventional and non-conventional or organic farming practices (Brooker 2013). Conventional faming involves the use of chemical products such as pesticides and fertilizers to enhance crop production and yield. This application of pesticides, fertilizers, and insecticides became widespread after the Green Revolution, in an effort to enhance the growth of new short-term hybrids. These toxic agrochemicals, though beneficial in enhancing agricultural yields and preventing pests and diseases, present certain drawbacks in terms of eliminating non-target species and polluting the environment, and as such, has been criticized for no longer being acceptable or economical. As a result, some farmers have turned to organic farming practices which encourage more eco-friendly high quality production of crops.
Non-conventional farming or organic farming is now gaining a greater appreciation and is now being applied to farming activities in Trinidad and Tobago. This method is more modern and technology-based and does not require the use of chemical products. It includes the use of greenhouses, grow boxes, hydroponics and aquaculture.
A greenhouse is structure designed to enhance crop growth by providing the optimum conditions conducive to growth. Tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce and green peppers are just a few of the crops produced under greenhouses in Trinidad. A greenhouse is not site-specific as it can be constructed and managed on any type of land. In addition to being less labour intensive, greenhouses reduce the incidence of pests and diseases as well as, prevent the occurrence of droughts and floods. Also, once properly managed, consistent volumes of high quality crops is produced. In light of recent advances in greenhouse engineering, greenhouses have become more popular in the recent past among Trinidad farmers. However, due to lack of finances among some farmers as well as, knowledge and experience in this relatively new technology, greenhouses are under-utilized by Trinidad farmers (Tropical Greenhouse Solutions Ltd 2013)
A large proportion of the crops are also now being cultivated through hydroponics which entails the growing of plants in a nutrient-rich solution, without the use of soil. Hydroponics facilitates the production of plants on a large scale. Furthermore, a practice known as Verti-Gro Hydroponics which stems from the conventional hydroponics system, was introduced into Trinidad and Tobago by the company, Fusion Farms Ltd. The system describes pots being stacked upwards vertically, as a means of conserving water and also, efficiently utilizing available space by minimizing the space in which crops are grown. Like hydroponics, the system also does not require soil but rather, uses â€˜organic, formulated hydroponic fertilizers and nutrientsâ€™ to feed plants in the vertical stacks (Fusion Farms Ltd. 2013). The major inputs include into the system include expanded polystyrene pots (EPS), compressed cocofiber and perlite mix as the planting media. Therefore, although the system is labour intensive, a wide variety of vegetables in particular, such as, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and parsley are grown under this system.
However, most farmers have forgone this practice because of the time-consuming component attached as well as, the high labour costs, and have geared towards the practice of rectangular grow-boxes. This non-conventional practice is relatively simple and efficient at eliminating pest and diseases in addition to, faster producing healthy productive crops such as, chive, lettuce, pakchoi. It also encourages efficient use of fertilizers while reducing the need for pesticides since most pests cannot thrive in such conditions and are thus eliminated (Boodan 2006).
An additional practice known as polyculture has been implemented by farmers in Caura Valley, Trinidad in an effort to increase crop yields. This system, coupled with drip irrigation and self-imposed buffers encourages the growth of multiple crops within the same cultivation system, while conserving water through drip irrigation. Drip irrigation systems are relative inexpensive with few inputs including, pipes, water and fertilizer.
In effect, Trinidad and Tobago farmers have diversified their farming practices and have geared towards more modern, technology-based approaches which earn them satisfactory rewards while producing high quality sustainable yields on a large scale.
Agriculture requires a significant amount of input into primary production for good yields. Inputs are what go into the farm. Two types are known in agriculture. Firstly, they can either be natural or physical inputs, which include weather, climate, relief (height, shape and aspect), soil, geology and latitude where farmers have little or no control over these. However, changing the natural inputs can sometimes be done but it usually involves a lot of expense. Secondly, there are human inputs which include land availability, machinery, fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, workers and transport. These usually have to be paid for, although farmers can save some money by producing some of these themselves. Nevertheless, a considerable amount of the money earned from marketing the products to domestic markets are used up to pay for their different farming expenses.Â Most of the peasant farmers interviewed had a low standard of living and cannot even begin to afford the standard inputs required.
Firstly, land is the main element that is needed for agriculture. Most of the farmers inherited and therefore owned the land on which they farmed. The farmers who owned the land they were planting on had inherited the land that was purchased by their ancestors for as little as twelve dollars per acre approximately four generations before the current owner. Whereas some on the other hand had very high rental fees since they did not possess their own land. The land was rented to the farmers for approximately two thousand dollars per acre per year of which most famers had only one.
Another input required for agriculture is water. The farmers used the same irrigation method which was the drip hose/ sprinklers. The water comes from the San Juan River which is nearby to the land being cultivated. Pumps are used to draw the water out of the river and to the farms however, these pumps are very costly even though the water from the river is free. Problems arise during the dry season when the water in the river is low and water is not available for irrigation, therefore much may be lost due to lack of water. Alternatively, flooding occurs after intense rain, which fills the San Juan River, causing the river to overflow itsâ€™ bed, flooding the fields of the peasant farmers. This causes damage to the crops of the farmers and erodes the soil. Rainfall was most
intense during the month of June of last year thus making this month the highly susceptible to flooding.
Disease and pest resistant seedlings are also major agricultural inputs. Prices for seeds vary for each crop grown and production systems used, however, the variation is somewhat less than for other inputs such as crop chemical. New genetically modified seeds are produced by research companies and then they are sold to the farmers wanting to produce better quality food for the nation. Irrespective of this fact, most of the farmers prefer to germinate their own seedlings as an attempt to cut input costs.
Fertilizers and salts are applied to the soil to keep cultivated plants healthy. As they grow, plants extract nutrients they need from the soil. Unless these nutrients are replenished, plants will eventually cease to grow. In nature, nutrients are returned to the soil when plants die and decay. However, this does not occur with cultivated plants. When the farmers cultivate and harvest plants mainly for food, nutrients that the plants extracted from the soil are taken away. To keep the soil productive, it is necessary to replace these nutrients artificially. The kinds and amounts of nutrients that plants need have been determined and can be supplied by applying to the soil substances that contain these nutrients. In spite of being one of the leading producers and exporters of fertilizers in the world, Trinidad and Tobago's fertilizer use is limited due to fertile soils of the Caroni plains.
Pesticides are crop chemicals used to eliminate or control a variety of agricultural pests that can damage crops and reduce farm productivity. The most commonly applied pesticides are insecticides (to kill insects), herbicides (to kill weeds), rodenticides (to kill rodents), and fungicides (to control fungi, mold, and mildew). These are applied on an "as-needed" basis and applications vary widely from farm-to-farm, and from crop-to-crop. (Weatherbury Farm 2013)
Farming done in Trinidad and Tobago is less machinery intensive than commercialized countries since most farmers cannot afford to buy a tractor for his private use and the cost of renting one is also very high. Therefore a tractor is rented only for extensive work on the farm that that farmer or his workers cannot perform. Although agriculture was increasingly mechanized, it was still relatively labour intensive.
In addition to land, machinery, fertilizer, crop chemicals and seeds, farmers face costs for hired labour, fuel for vehicles, taxes, crop insurance, property insurance, and the list goes on. All of the expenses add to the challenge of remaining profitable and economically viable for the long term. (United States Environmental Protection Agency 2013) Agricultural inputs such as machinery, fertilizers, and technical assistance were generally available but were mostly utilized for export crops. Although the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, and Food Production provided some technical assistance in the rehabilitation of various aging and diseased tree crops, these programs were generally unsuccessful, and yields continued to decline. In 1982 a successful citrus rehabilitation program was introduced, however, which helped expand citrus output in the mid- to late 1980s. (Country Studies n.d.)
As a result of the country's colonial history, agriculture has been traditionally aimed at crops for export to Europe. Cocoa and coffee are the most important estate crops since the closure of the sugarcane industry, while citrus, rice and coconuts are also grown in large acreages. With 11,000 hectares, sugar production accounted for approximately 50% of the GDP for agriculture. Sugar, as an export crop, was vulnerable to World Trade Organization agreements and the removal of preferential treatment for European markets. (New Agriculturist 1999) Anticipating this, the major, state-owned, sugar producing company has been diversifying its activities for many years into citrus and other fruit. (Country Studies n.d.) Output was so low in 1984 that no coffee was exported. Nevertheless, coffee production did rebound strongly in 1985, reaching 2.1 million kilograms, 35 percent of which was exported. (Country Studies n.d.)
The expansion of coconut, citrus crops, especially oranges, grapefruits, and limes, also coincided with the decline of cocoa in the 1930s; however they were processed and used mainly by local industries. Output of citrus products peaked in the mid-1950s and later decreased drastically to a low of 4.7 million kilograms in 1982, or about 20 times below peak output. During the early 1980s, citrus exports fell to an insignificant 2 percent of total production. Coconut, and its main derivative, copra, was another major export crop and was the second most important crop in Tobago. Like other export crops, output of coconuts declined in the 1970s, making the island no longer self-sufficient in oils. All coconuts went to the local processing industry for soaps and oils. (Country Studies n.d.)
Source: T&T Today n. d.
The commodities that are produced domestically have changed substantially in recent decades. The former export crops of coffee, cocoa and sugar are now non-existent or much reduced: â€˜production of traditional crops like cocoa beans and coffee all declined to current levels several years ago, with sugar production following suit in the early 2000s.â€™ The value of sugar exports fell to US$2.2 million in 2009 (from US$37Â million in 2006). Cocoa is exported but all the coffee produced is processed locally. Coffee production expanded after 1930 in response to the decline in cocoa output. Although agriculture accounts for 13.7% of non-oil exports, â€˜it is concentrated in a few products, most of which are processed products rather than agricultural commoditiesâ€™ â€˜In many cases, such as tobacco, the raw material is imported and processed and the transformed product (cigarettes) exported.â€™ The main import is undenatured ethyl alcohol (rum and beer), by contrast, are still exported throughout the world, however, the TPR reports, it is mainly â€˜imported from Brazil, processed and exported to the United States at preferential tariffs under the Caribbean Basin Initiative.â€™ It is also noticed that to some extent the decline in traditional exports can be attributed to preference erosion, but more fundamental contributing factors identified include â€˜the small size of farms, uncertain tenure for many farmers, the small domestic market, and the decline in production of higher value crops like cocoa and coffeeâ€™. (Agritrade 2012)
Among CARICOM countries, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) displays one of the highest degrees of product diversification in the food and agricultural sector. Early domestic trade reforms and entrepreneurship led to the emergence of a vibrant import-substitution industry, with processed and value-added products not only displacing imports but also penetrating regional markets. This however occurred at the expense of primary agricultural production, including the production of agricultural commodities which could not compete for labour and increasingly for land resources. (Agritrade 2012)
Fruit and vegetable production are now increasing and contribute 20% to the agricultural GDP. (Agritrade 2012) A wide variety of fruit and vegetables, including frozen dasheen leaves, frozen pumpkin cubes, frozen bodi, frozen ochro, watermelon, eggplant, hot peppers and herbs, are exported mainly to the Caribbean, USA, Canada and the United Kingdom. Current supply of these exports is not fulfilling demand so there is potential for the expansion of this sector. In Tobago, fruit and vegetables are produced for local markets and the tourist industry. However, Tobago producers face serious competition from growers in Trinidad who, because of lower input costs and larger economies of scale, can produce at relatively low cost. (New Agriculturist 1999)
In December 2007, The National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporationâ€™s (NAMEDVCO) Farmersâ€™ Markets were set up at Macoya in East Trinidad and Debe in South Trinidad. The objective of these markets was for producers to sell directly to consumers, thereby eliminating the middle men in the marketing chain. The result would be better prices obtained by both parties. The success of these markets led to the establishment another five in other parts of the country. The intention is to have fifteen such markets at strategic locations throughout the country.
Trinidad and Tobago has broadened its horizons and has embraced globalization by importing agricultural products from foreign countries. Trinidad being a member-state of CARICOM has embarked on Bilateral Trade Agreements with foreign nations in an effort to easily increase market access. The agricultural import market has grown rapidly, with the majority (approximately 40%) of agricultural imports coming from the Unites States.
An increasing population has resulted in a strain on agricultural production in Trinidad and as such, the importation of foodstuff is necessary to meet the needs of the population. Additionally, in order to produce desirable food products, Trinidad and Tobago has developed a heavy reliance on agricultural imports. Statistics reveal a significant increase in the total agricultural import bill from US$352 million in 2004 to $4 billion 2009 (Allaham 2012).
As seen in Figure 1 below, Trinidad and Tobagoâ€™s major food import partners in 2003 included the United States, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Canada and the United Kingdom (Gain Report 2005). Additionally, Chile, India, the Netherlands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Belize are among trading partners. Research reveals, however, that the United Kingdom and New Zealand are no longer supplying countries. Nevertheless, the main agricultural products imported into Trinidad and Tobago, under the Phytosanitary Certificate include rice, wheat, corn, fruits and vegetables, coffee, tea and spices (Gonzalez 2012).
Trinidadâ€™s largest supplier of agricultural products, the United States, supplies the nation mainly with rice, corn and wheat. The products however, have on average, showed a decline in the import rates. Rice imports from the US have fluctuated from1960â€”2012 and began to decrease steadily from approximately 2002â€”2009, remaining constant at no imports until 2012(Index Mundi 2013). Corn as well as wheat imports, on the other hand, increased significantly from 1960, followed by significant decline in the import rate from the US since 2007â€”2012. Trinidad and Tobago has therefore, acquired additional import partners such as Caribbean countries. The nation now imports rice from Guyana, fresh fruits from St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as St. Lucia (Index Mundi 2013). Additionally, in an interview conducted with a Phd candidate, Reetu Bahadoorsingh (2013), it was revealed that root crops such as, dasheen and eddoes are also imported from Caribbean territories.
Fresh vegetables accounting for US$28.7 million of the food import bill is shipped in from The Netherlands, China, and the United States. Furthermore, fresh fruit and Tree nuts comprising US$10.3 million is imported from the United States preferably, and to a lesser extent, India and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Additionally, processed vegetable, fruit, and tree nut products come from the US, Canada and Belize. Lastly, coffee, tea and spices accounting for US$4.4 million originate from Chile, India and Canada. The majority of products are imported from the US due to their major advantages of competitive pricing, quality products and proximity to the market.
The increasing imports of agricultural products have encouraged the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to develop strategies designed to curb importation and facilitate the exportation of products. Hence, in an effort to reduce the food import bill, the government of Trinidad and Tobago had implemented the requirement of specific documents. Also, the government has increased subsidies to local farmers in order to curb the heavy reliance on foreign production and by extension, the import bill while at the same time serving to encourage local farmers to boost the local food and agriculture industry (Logan 2005).
FIGURE 5: Trinidad and Tobago major food import partners(2003)
According to Shamin Renwick (2010, 2-3), the agricultural sector in Trinidad and Tobago is declining. As a means of development, food security is a must. Trinidad and Tobagoâ€™s government developed a National Food Production Action Plan 2012-2015. The objectives are to reduce the imports by increasing local production which will also increase and sustain permanent employment.
Also, because of such large importation bills of approximately $4billion, the Minister of Finance declared in the 2008-2009 budget that we should increase our local production and agriculture. He continued by saying how increase in agricultural production will control inflation and will aid in the economy as well as private agri-businesses (Badrie 2009). Although local food production is low, strategies of aid are implemented.
Some of the measures adopted to fulfil this plan are; increased investment in the agricultural sector from $1.2billion-$1.7billion, reduction in the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) lending rate from 12% to 6% and the increase in the allocation to the ADB from &$100 million to $125 million (Badrie 2009). The ADB provides loans and agro-careers for the younger generations, so as to increase their interest as the country is in need of diversification (COMMONWEALTH NETWORK n.d.).
Furthermore, according to a Newsday article dated 2012 and entitled â€˜5, 000 Acres Set Aside for Rice Plantingâ€™, the Ministry of Food Production increased the land used for rice cultivation from 1200 acres in 2011 to 2500 acres in 2012. The article continued on by describing the Ministryâ€™s aim to bring back the rice production industry to the South by setting aside the 5,000 acres of land. Food Production Minister, Devant Maharaj promised a price and market for all "paddy locally produced" and a subsidy of 20% on the buying of combined harvesters (ibid). Food Production Minister, Vasant Barath said, "we are only eating 5% of the rice we produce in Trinidad and Tobago" (Guardian Media 2012), thus plans to increase local production are being taken.
The Ministry of Food Production also targeted the education component of agricultural production. In March 2013 the government administered a Farmers Training Centre where free outreach programs are offered. A summary of it is seen below.
These will help local farmers in proper production strategies and will also increase the number of local farmers as these courses are free of charge. Other implementations for this plan were made. Such are; The Large Farms Project, National Agri-Business Development Programme, Farmersâ€™ Markets and The National Agricultural Market Information Systems (Badrie 2009).
Trinidad and Tobagoâ€™s government collaborated with Cubaâ€™s government on the Large Farms Project. Eleven farms are being considered and the largest, Tucker Valley, comprising of 200 acres, started in the year 2008. The aim is to farm intensively and to practice crop rotation so as to increase yields. An expected 4000 tons of varying fruits and vegetables and grains are to be harvested locally (ibid).
The National Agri-Business Development Programme serves as an aid for farmers and other entrepreneurs in contract agreements or other agro-marketing facilities and was brought about by the Trinidad and Tobago Agri-business Association (TTABA) (ibid).
Farmersâ€™ Markets are those in which farmers or the producers can sell their produce directly to consumers whereby increasing profit as less labourers are involved. In 2007 one was set up in Macoya and another in Debe Trinidad. As a result of these marketsâ€™ success, five more were set up around the country and more of these markets are expected to be built (ibid).
The National Agricultural Market Information Systems was developed in 2007. This serves as a benefit to both the producer and consumer as components like price and volume of commodities are made easily available. This component is known as Market Information. By having access to this information, producers are able to easily decide on a price and this price is made available to consumers, who then purchase with accordance to quantity and price. Retail prices are also made available and this helps consumers to purchase wisely and also aids in the reduction of prices in other venues (ibid).
Having the Large Farm Projects, National Agri-Business Development Programmes, Farmersâ€™ Markets and The National Agricultural Market Information Systems will encourage agricultural production in Trinidad and Tobago. These implementations make it much more beneficial for the farmers hence it will encourage local farming, thus increasing local yield production, followed by local food consumption patterns and a lesser need for imports.
In Trinidad and the Tobago farmers are faced with numerous challenges which make it more demanding to carry on their means of support. Throughout the years, there have been continuous complaints from local farmers. These problems cause some farmers to abandon estates and practice subsistence farming which allows them to supply just enough produce for their families, thereby resulting in greater importation of goods. Some of these challenges include destruction of productive farmlands and lack of land tenure policies, praedial larceny, flooding and lack of agricultural insurance, lack of proper water management during the dry season, pests and diseases, infrastructural problems, labor shortages, lack of capital and competition among other farmers.
In 2012, there was the bulldozing of pineapple fields at Mausica in April, and similar destruction of farmed lands at Dass Trace and Egypt Village in Chaguanas in May in a case of housing versus food production. The farmlands were destroyed in an effort to secure land for housing purposes. "The People Partnership government destroyed 175 acres of food crops at two agricultural sites" (Trinidad and Tobago News Blog 2012). The farmlands were destroyed by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) bulldozers. Farmers claimed that numerous varieties of crops were destroyed like corn, pineapple, bodi, sweet potatoes, peas, cassava and other vegetables. The affected farmers want the bulldozing of farmlands to stop however the land has been approved for housing years ago. Farmers are yet to be reimbursed and displaced. Moreover, the cost of renting agricultural lands (land tenancy) is very high.
Praedial larceny is the uncontrolled theft of crops and livestock. This has been an ongoing problem for most farmers for many years. They have put a lot of time, effort and money into producing their crops only to be victims of such an act. Farmers with large estates may not be as severely affected as those farmers that practice subsistence farming. There was one incident in which a farmer of Madoo Hill, Tunapuna reported to authorities that he had poisoned over 2000 avocadoes with weedicide in response to bandits pilfering his produce, which was a constant problem to him, and so the frustrated farmer took it upon himself to seek justice.
During the rainy season in Trinidad and Tobago, there are always reports of major flooding. "The island is mostly plains with some hills." (Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 2005). Each year, the Caroni River bursts its banks as a result of heavy and continuous rainfall. This leads to severe flooding in that area and environs. Residents as well as farmers are not only displaced but farmers lose their produce as the flood waters drown plants and kill them. They are also left with exorbitant damages. Annual crops destroyed range from food crops such as rice, plantain and corn to fruits and vegetables like melons, squash, paw paw, pumpkins, cabbage and cucumbers and even root crops like cassava, sweet potatoes, dasheen and Tania. When farmers lose these valuable crops, they lose their livelihood. Further, there is a lack of agricultural insurance and crop insurance in this country and so when farmers are faced with natural disasters like flooding they have no other means of compensation. The dry season also brings with it challenges for farmers. There is a lack of water irrigation for crops during the dry season and so crops are vulnerable to droughts and drought like conditions.
Pest and disease infestation of crops is a common problem here in the tropics. There are many pests and diseases that leave crops susceptible and weak and farmers bankrupt and starved. All crops are vulnerable to pests and diseases. About 75-80% of coconut estates in Trinidad and Tobago were destroyed by this occurrence. Some of the diseases that strike crops locally are the black pod disease which affects cocoa, froghopper affects sugarcane, citrus tristeza virus, citrus, thrips, whitefly, bacterial wilt and anthracnose, vegetables, cassava bacterial blight and megastes grandalis, root crops and tephritid fruit fly affects tropical fruits. Hence, most farmers fall prey to this problem.
Efficient agricultural outcomes also rely on efficient infrastructure. Many farmers suffer from lack of proper roads, bridges, pipe borne water and electricity which affect their ability in producing their crops. Poor transport routes may delay the speediness in getting perishable produce to the market on time. Lack of common utilities affects a farmâ€™s mechanisation ability as well as the cropsâ€™ chances of survival since they need water. Also, there is inadequate access to appropriate equipment and mechanization. In addition, there are inadequate facilities to accommodate post-harvest activities. In terms of capital, farmers are affected since the cost of gaining access to loans is very high and so most small farmers cannot increase their farm production and may resort to labour intensive methods of farming. There are some farmers that do access loans but eventually get caught up in debt and do not have sufficient funds to repay the loan.
There is a shortage of labour in the agricultural sector due to urbanization. People leave the rural regions to inhabit cities where they find employment in the industrial sector. Farmers therefore use family labour on their farms. The farmers that do not use family labour encounter problems such as low productivity since the workforce may be unskilled or semiskilled. Lastly, competition among farmers exists. When farmers overcome all the obstacles mentioned above, they now face the challenge of getting their produce sold while averting profit loss. They compete with other farmers and the farmer with the most cost effective, quality goods get their goods sold to support their livelihood.
Agricultural production in Trinidad and Tobago is quite labour intensive with the use of some machinery and technology. The country also practices subsistence and commercial farming. "There are two distinct types of agricultural operationsâ€”the large estate or plantation that is managed by a specialist and employs large numbers of laborers, and the small farm cultivated by the owner (or tenant) and family. The small farms grow mainly for the home market" (The Encyclopaedia of the Nations 2007). "Agriculture accounted for about 0.5% of Trinidad and Tobagoâ€™s GDP, although the sector still directly employs some 3.8% of the population" (CIA 2005). This is perhaps a result of rural persons migrating into cities to become employed in the manufacturing sector. While some farmers may use manual labor, other farmers tend to incorporate mechanization. Although agriculture has been increasingly mechanized, it is still relatively labor intensive. Subsistence farming tends to be concentrated within certain parts of the country. "Small scale subsistence farming is prevalent on the slopes of Trinidadâ€™s Northern Range, driven mainly by accelerated conversion of agricultural lands to housing (Northern Range Assessment, 2005). (Eco AgriCulture 2007). While tree crops would be recommended on such slopes, subsistence farmers favor short term crops." Larger farms are generally more capital and input intensive and produce cash crops for export while the smaller farms are not so capital intensive, labour intensive and produced goods for subsistence and perhaps for the community (the latter known as peasant farming.)
Farmers in Trinidad and Tobago face many problems in the agricultural arena. They have their lands destroyed and converted in residential lands, experience praedial larceny, seasonal flooding and droughts, infrastructural problems, labour shortages, lack of capital, problems from pests and diseases and competition from other local farmers. If this countryâ€™s food import bill was to experience a drastic decrease of $TT2 billion, these challenges must be first rectified.
Initiatives that can be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture to help encourage and improve the agricultural sector in Trinidad & Tobago reduce the countryâ€™s food bill and increase the countryâ€™s food securities are as follows;
Uncontrolled theft of crops and livestock and general lack of serious interest by the Police to investigate and apprehend culprits.
1. Introduction of a Praedial Larceny Commission to efficiently and effectively tried praedial larceny cases and there-by reduce the length of time for praedial larceny cases, when called in the courts.
2. Issues of praedial larceny need to be treated with greater seriousness in the courts, though special sessions at least once a day at the Commission.
3. Modify relevant legislation so that farmers have the right to protect farm produce, livestock and equipment without undue prejudice to the farmer.
4. Expand, equip and appropriately retrain the Paredial Larceny Squad; and deploy in each district.
Lack of irrigation water in the dry season and uncontrolled flooding in the wet season.
5. Establishment of a committee between the MFPLMA and the Ministry of Works to oversee water management issues where jurisdiction overlaps.
6. Development of communal ponds in agricultural districts.
7. Deployment of irrigation equipment to service farmers in need.
8. Improve drainage and storage network to reduce risks posed by flooding or drought, including dredging of key rivers.
9. Use of swamps as water retention basins, and the construction of the Mamoral dam.
10. Active management of key watersheds to ensure supply of irrigation and potable water.
Land tenure of many farmers not regularised since leases not provided after several years. The best agricultural lands continue to be converted into housing and other development. The rental of agricultural
state lands must be set at a level to encourage farming.
11. Grant leases to all farmers who have received letter of offer within one year.
12. Approve construction of a dwelling on all leased properties so that the farmer can have a better physical presence on the land to minimise praedial larceny.
13. Provide all utilities to each agricultural property.
14. Establish that all agricultural lands should have an annual lease/rental not exceeding $200/acre.
15. Create a policy and mechanism to ensure that the better agricultural lands are zoned and used only for agricultural purposes.
Source: EMBD Trinidad and Tobago 2009-2010
Agricultural access roads, bridges, drains, electricity and pipe borne water to farm gate grossly inadequate in many areas. Lack of suitable post-harvest facilities in farming districts.
16. Farmers must have input in the design, location and construction of infrastructure to ensure appropriateness and functionality.
17. Develop a clear schedule for infrastructure improvement in all farming districts and implement immediately.
18. Each farming district should have adequate post-harvest facilities.
Generally low productivity by unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour, in part due to attitudes developed on government projects. Lack of adequate supply of labour for farms.
19. Government must set a new standard for hours of work and level of productivity, in collaboration with farmers.
20. Establish a national labour pool that farmers can access.
21. Certification programme for farm labour needed to enhance their skills and productivity, perhaps through the National Training Agency.
22. Facilitate access to external sources of farm labour when needed.
Cost of loans too high for most small farmers to access for increased farm production. Lack of availability of crop insurance against losses due to extreme natural phenomena and business failure.
23. Set loan interest rate at 1% for agricultural production activities.
24. Provide programme of crop insurance.
25. Provide a programme for guarantee of loans to farmers.
26. Provide a grant to landless farmers as seed capital to improve their skills and ability to become more productive farmers.
Lack of certified disease/ pest free planting material, including inadequate local seed production. Inadequate access to appropriate equipment and mechanization. Too much dependence on â€˜middle menâ€™ for marketing of produce. High cost of agro-chemicals and land preparation. Lack of information on production volumes and crop types. No scheduling of crop production to minimise gluts.
27. Farm vehicles sold to bonafide farmers should be 100% Vat free.
28. Develop and make available at least quarterly, national production schedules.
29. Develop pool of farm equipment for loan to farmers.
30. Bring certification of planting material within one year, and facilitate development of private plant production facilities.
31. Improve soil analysis service to ensure low cost and timely delivery.
No facility for providing exposure to advanced agricultural production techniques and technologies, in other countries. Smaller farmers lack basic training in key aspects of agronomy and computer use. Farm labour need training appropriate to the farmâ€™s operation for enhancing skills and productivity.
32. Facilitate visits of progressive farmers to selected farms or agricultural research facilities in other countries that offer useful methodologies, technologies or lessons.
33. Facilitate use of farm schools as a learning experience for farmers and labourers.
34. Develop and implement a programme of good agricultural practices for Trinidad & Tobago.
35. Develop certification programme for farm labour through the National Training Agency or other appropriate mechanism.
Research activities of the leading institutions seem not to be integrated to address priorities of farmers. Dissemination of research results is weak and does not facilitate uptake by most farmers.
36. Develop a list of national agricultural research priorities in consultation with farmers and encourage the research institutions to give priority to these needs.
37. Promote an active process for the translation and dissemination of agricultural research to farmers, including research done over the past 15-20 years.
Lack of insurance for agricultural crops as protection from natural phenomena and commercial risks.
38. Establishment of an affordable crop insurance programme accessible by all farmers.
Weak capacity of many farmers groups to organize themselves and effectively participate in national activities and manage their operations. Inability of the Agricultural Extension Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, to adequately address the needs of farmers and provide true extension services.
39. Provide technical and financial assistance to farmer groups to build their capacity to better manage their operations and participate in national activities. Key areas for assistance will include governance, marketing, investments, agronomy, etc.
40. Conduct a management audit and strategic analysis of the Agricultural Extension
Division, to guide the re-design and resourcing of the Division to ensure a fully functional participatory extension service.
41. Extension services should focus on dissemination of research results, technology/ technique transfer, human resource development, empowerment and advisory work including crop production scheduling.
Farmers spend too much time lining up and waiting to access the wholesale markets. Limited accommodations at some wholesale facilities restrict the handling of large volumes of produce. Current distribution/marketing system facilitates middle men, thereby reducing the earning that farmers get directly for their investment.
42. Develop a programme/ procedure to reduce the need for farmers to spend long hours at wholesale markets.
43. Expand and upgrade wholesale trading facilities to better accommodate a high volume of trading.
44. Facilitate direct linkage of farm to market or consumer, to help increase farmers return on investment.
Ineffective dissemination through the various media of the need for greater consumption of locally grown, safe and healthy foods.
45. In this regard, the following organizations should be an integral part of a national effort: The School Nutrition Programme â€“ healthy and tasty meals to our children and getting them weaned away from the fast food culture to appreciate and acquire the taste of our products and cuisine. The Ministry of Health - promotion of healthy lifestyle which will ultimately benefit the individual and the society through lower health care costs, a more productive population, feeling of well-being, improved confidence and self-esteem etc
The Ministry of Education â€“ the inclusion of the benefits of eating safe, healthy foods on the school curriculum. Consumer Affairs Division â€“ to ensure that consumers get value for money
The Ministry of Tourism â€“ to promote our food products and cuisine to tourists, especially those who come from countries to which our food is exported
The Ministry of Culture â€“ to encourage the national adoption of the fantastic range off our ethnic cuisine over time.
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