A disturbing track record on agriculture

0

Having listened to the contribution by the Hon Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries on the 2021 Budget debate in both Houses of Parliament, as well as his junior, Senator Avinash Singh, one cannot be underwhelmed by what was heard.

It was somewhat repulsive to hear a government minister, who after five years of pretending to put agriculture at the forefront of diversification and development in Trinidad & Tobago, use his speaking time in true PNM fashion to blame the ills of the Agriculture sector on the former PP/UNC Government.

This was most unfortunate, as I was looking forward to hearing exactly how the $500 million Agriculture incentive programme would be operationalised; how many farmers would benefit and in what way. But then again, if one goes by their PNM track record, with a support programme announced in 2018, touted to be the saving grace of farmers throughout the country, is it any surprise that three fiscal years later with over 1,000 applicants to said programme, the Minister hurries to give out a handful of grants so he could come to Parliament beating his chest that the did something? It was also unfortunate as I listened to him, hearing almost no mention of the Praedial Larceny Squad, and what would be done to resuscitate this Unit that is clearly in the ICU of agriculture.

Again, the only mention of praedial larceny was for the Minister to throw shade on his predecessors, when he himself has presided over agriculture for the last five years, watching this unit deteriorate, while the criminal element flourishes over us farmers. Perhaps the Minister should take a page from his colleague, Hon Pennelope Beckles, who acknowledged the problem in her budget presentation as a “vexing issue”, giving her commitment to work towards addressing it, together with the Ministry of Agriculture.

And let us not forget our friend, the goodly Senator Avinash Singh, who came to the Senate with a somewhat well-rehearsed speech, outlining all of the promises that the PNM surely intend to not keep regarding Agriculture.

Shop talk and more shop talk.

We the farmers want results, plain and simple. Whilst everyone else gets to take vacations, farmers must weather the elements, day in, day out, doing so with a clear and ever-present risk, greater than most businesses.

When can we see a turnaround for Agriculture, above and beyond the politicking is anyone’s guess.

Until then, we the farmers continue to suffer in silence.

Pray for us.

TRISTAN SUKHDEO
Freeport