Guyana, T&T to look at MOU on agri production

The governments of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago hope to conclude a Memorandum of Under-standing within a couple of weeks following last week’s visit by a team from the twin-island republic to explore food production here.

The Trinidadian team, which was led by Minister of Food Production Devant Maharaj, visited a number of locations across the country to view possible sites but have not made a firm decision as yet, Minister of Agriculture, Dr Leslie Ramsammy told Stabroek News. “They will be going back to Trinidad to discuss it,” he said. The technical team that accompanied Maharaj left on Friday while the minister departed from Guyana yesterday.

Ramsammy emphasized that it was just an exploratory visit and is the first of several. He said that sites were visited in Regions One, Five, Six and Eight and various options were identified, but “that is something that they have to discuss with their people.” He noted that Trinidad wants to establish farms to reduce their food import bill and are interested in crops such as corn, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, onions and cauliflower among others, as well as small ruminants such as sheep and goats.

Ramsammy said that no time has been set for when the investments could be seen.

He said that Trinidad will examine a MOU between the two countries and they hope that within a couple of weeks this will be finalized.

Last month, Trinidad Minister of Finance Larry Howai said that Trinidad’s Ministry of Food Production is moving to establish a Food Security Facility with the Government of Guyana.

He was delivering the 2013 Trinidad and Tobago national budget in that country’s Parliament. Howai said that this facility is necessary because land is becoming less and less available in Trinidad and Tobago. “The Facility would commit both Governments to expanding agricultural production in Guyana through the establishment of commercial relationships for funding the establishment of several large agricultural estates in Guyana,” he said.

Calling agriculture one of the areas of focus of the budget, Howai said that Trinidad proposes to reduce its food import bill by 50 per cent or just over TT$2.0 billion per year by 2015.

Critics of the government here have said that while Trinidad and other Caricom countries are moving aggressively to lower their food import bills Guyana is lagging far behind. Despite a hyped up and costly Grow More Food campaign, critics say the government here has little to show for it by way of expanded agricultural exports and a lower food import bill.

Following an initial meeting on Thursday, another meeting was scheduled for Friday, where discussions were expected to “zero in on synergies that Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago can take advantage of like agro-processing,” Maharaj had told the Government Information Agency (GINA).

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