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Agriculture Society also disappointed
President of the Agricultural Society Dhano Sookoo is disappointed with the $1.3 billion allocation for agriculture in the 2013/2104 budget. She spoke with the T&T Guardian after Finance Minister Larry Howai’s $61.3 billion budget presentation, titled Sustaining Growth, Securing Prosperity, in Parliament yesterday afternoon. Howai announced a $1.3 billion agriculture allocation, the smallest slice of the $61.3 billion budget pie. Sookoo said the allocation was “much lower” than she thought it would be, especially in light of a number of outstanding issues in the agriculture sector.
She said the low allocation might have been as a result of the creation of the new Ministry of Land and Marine Resources, which would be allocated some of agriculture’s money.
She added: “We have been talking about packing houses/store houses. I was expecting to hear in the budget some initiative to look into those. From what we have heard there were no incentives, no real incentive for agro-processing and so on.” Sookoo said she also expected a clear policy statement from Howai on buying more local produce, which was not addressed. “I was looking forward to hear a strong policy towards buying local, especially with the food chains, with the restaurants, the local franchises and so on, and of course the school nutrition programme,” she added.
Howai also announced government’s continued partnership with Guyana through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a food security facility on 10,000 acres of land in Berbice, Guyana, for immediate agricultural production and subsequently a further 90,000 acres. “The Government of T&T will invite private-sector investment in agricultural production in Guyana and will work with the Government of Guyana to provide a facilitating environment and the necessary support to attract such investments,” Howai said. He also said government had requested, in the MoU, for investors from T&T to be “eligible to access incentives currently available to Guyanese farmers and be allowed to repatriate profits.” Sookoo said she did not support that initiative. “We have thousands of arable agriculture land,” she explained. “We need to deal with our own issues here before we look to invest in any other country. “Apart from that I do not think it is a well-thought-out idea, because there are a lot of other issues apart from just acquiring the lands.” She asked, for example: “Whether or not there was a pest risk analysis done. If you are transporting food from one country to another country, you may expose (it to) pests and diseases.”
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