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UWI principal challenges local food producers

Published: 
Sunday, March 25, 2018

UWI St Augustine campus principal Prof Brian Copeland is proposing development of a multi-sectoral alliance to address the country’s food production challenges.

Speaking at the launch of the campus’s TechAgrI Expo, the UWI head called on investors, state agencies, regional and international institutions, farmers and academia to join in developing the food and agriculture sector.

“Agriculture is the backbone of the economy,” he said. “In such times as these, where foreign exchange is exceedingly scarce, it is imperative that our focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialisation is sharpened.”

Dean of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture, Dr Wayne Ganpat had earlier warned that with an annual food import bill of between $6 and $7 billion and a decline in national income, it was urgent and important for the sector to grow at a more rapid rate.

He pointed to new initiatives by the university to promote greater knowledge of economic opportunity in the food and agriculture sector through new certificate courses that reach more people interested in such formal exposure.

Prof Copeland, meanwhile, pointed to the fact that the current foreign currency crunch, while “proving a challenge to business and individuals alike,” also presented openings for new activities.

“Out of evil can indeed come good,” he argued. “For farmers, entrepreneurs and financiers alike, there is opportunity to be had in the current scenario.

“We just have to ‘go brave’ as they say, seize the moment, and take that leap of faith in ourselves and our abilities.”

Copeland said UWI had created a platform for joint action and collaboration to face the issue of feeding the nation.

“We invite you to engage,” he said.

Dr Ganpat said many food entrepreneurs needed a one-stop shop to assist with a variety of specialist services and to improve on the financial viability of their enterprises.

“Who would help them affix that ‘proudly made in Trinidad and Tobago’ label on their product?”

Over 3,500 students pre-registered to attend the four-day Expo under the theme Food & Nutrition Security, Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation.

Under the spotlight were agro-industry technologies, crop and livestock production exhibits and a collection of products made by food entrepreneurs.

Other attractions at the expo included innovations by young agri-entrepreneurs, mini workshops, a local food village, a mini zoo, a children’s park and tours.

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