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Agriculture faces Declining production, high food prices
T&T’s path to self-sufficient agricultural production is riddled with pot-holes.
Despite the Government’s ambitious endeavour in Budget 2011, the flagging sector is still at the mercy of natural disasters, inflation and bureacracy.
Global events—Japan’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, Russia’s drought—impact negatively on the industry and moreso, on food prices.
Food prices are trending upwards, reflected in the country’s 12.5 per cent inflation rate.
With these challenges, have farmers managed to increase their food production?
Through the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (Namdevco), the Government has set up a system to help manage registered farmers, food production and monitor food prices.
Thus, using a snapshot of Namdevco’s statistics, it showed that food production from the northern wholesale market experienced the most decline in food production from 2009 to 2010.
From 2007 to 2008, farmers managed to increase their production in most crops, especially the root crops like carrots, cassava and yam but condiments and spices like hot peppers, chadon beni and medium pimentos; the volumes decreased.
From 2008 to 2009, however, the volumes for most of the food crops increased, but the volumes fell from 2009 to 2010.
The volume of the production for some crops were as follows:
• Carrots decreased from 2,005,479 kg to 1,583,200
• Cassava also fell from 804,310 kg to 618,734 kg
• Dasheen decreased from 421,419 kg to 152,656 kg
• Local sweet potatoes volume declined from 1,692,049 kg to 1,137,130 kg
• Imported sweet potato dropped from 500,667 to 181,956.
Similarly, looking at the prices of some of these goods, it showed there was a consistent increase in prices from 2006 to 2010.
Some of the food include roots crops like local and imported yam, local and imported sweet potato, leafy vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and other vegetables: sweet peppers and tomatoes and fruits.
While there was a slight fluctuation in prices from 2006 to 2007, the prices on most items went up in 2008.
• Local dasheen went up from $6.21 a kg to $8.97 while the imported dasheen climbed from $5.82 to $10.33.
• Local cauliflower moved from $14.47 to $17.90.
• Local sweet pepper went from $9.72 to $14.72 while the imported brand went down from $25.75 to $16.67.
• Local tomatoes increased from $1.25 to $15.21.
Surprisingly, all citrus prices went down except limes.
From 2008 to 2009 root crops prices, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes all went down while mainly all fruits and citrus—oranges, grapefruit and limes—increased significantly. And from 2009 to 2010, mostly all items went right back up again.
In an effort to reduce food import bill the Govt will focus on:
• Growing root crops like cassava, corn and developing the diary sector—sheep and goat
• Greenhouse farming
• Mega farms to start producing by September 2011: sweet corn tomatoes and rice
• 300 ponds by the end of May and other infrastructure lie access roads
• Loans and incentives to farmers
• Pilot project consist of utilising Caroni farm lands
• Educational drive for farmers
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