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Agriculture must help diversify T&T economy—Devant
Agriculture must be looked at one of the major diversifiers of the T&T economy, Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj said as he turned the sod on Tuesday evening to start construction of a packing house for local produce at Brechin Castle, Couva. Maharaj said the $48 million facility is one of five planned by the National Agriculture Marketing and Development Company (Namdevco). It will become operational in eight months and will open up opportunities for farmers to increase production and for downstream production in the sector.
“Investments in these sectors produce significant multiplier effects, generating demand for agricultural products and associated inputs and services, creating on and off-farm employment, enhancing incomes and contributing to value addition and increased public sector revenues,” the minister said.
“Through the development of agro-industries and agribusiness, access to markets, finance and technical assistance can be facilitated for smallholder farmers, promoting their inclusion into more modern and efficient value chains.”
Maharaj said the Brechin Castle Packinghouse and Multipurpose Agro-Processing Facility will involve retrofitting of the old sugar house at Brechin Castle to cover some 1368 square metre. The facility will include a semi-galvanised steel sheet structure cladded on top of a masonry wall affixed to a steel portal frame. Offices, changing rooms, meeting rooms and rest rooms will be located on first floor with a raised processing floor.
Rudranath Indarsingh, Minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Couva South MP, said he was happy to hear that during the construction and operational stages labour will be employed from the area. He said former employees of Caroni (1975) Limited involved in agriculture will be urged to produce more food as the government works toward the reduction of the food import bill. He said the packing house will provide an opportunity to even out supplies in times of glut and shortage and cater for niche and export markets.
Indarsingh said government is concerned about inflation. Deosaran Jagroo, CEO of Caroni (1975) Limited, said a plan will be announced soon to bring 5000 acres of land farmed by former employees of the sugar company under cultivation. Jagroo said he foresees the generation of more employment and opportunities in the area very soon.
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