Scores of school bus drivers yesterday staged a protest outside of the Public Service Transport Corporation in San Fernando over $10m in outstanding debt owed by the Government.
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Cheaper fertiliser on market by June
Farmers would soon be able to access cheaper fertiliser sourced and marketed by the State, said Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj. He was at the time speaking when the ministry started its programme to distribute $19.2 million to farmers as part of its incentive and flood relief programme. The event was held on April 16 at the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (Namdevco) wholesale market at Debe.
He said Namdevco has been mandated to source the cheapest possible fertiliser and sell to cost to farmers. He said the fertiliser, to be sought from the Far East, should be in the market by June. Maharaj said a similar model was used by the Seafood Industry Development Company (SIDC) that sells feed to fish farmers at cost price. He said this move by SIDC led to a resurgence of the tilapia industry.
Maharaj said Government is looking at incentives for large farmers who would soon be able to get incentives to purchase more than one tractor. Maharaj said the ministry prepared 986 incentive cheques and 23 flood claim cheques that were distributed to farmers from the areas of Victoria, Mayaro, Nariva and St Patrick. Maharaj said cheques have also been prepared for counties in both the Regional Administration North and the Fisheries Division.
Maharaj said: “As we examined the crippled agriculture sector left behind from decades of neglect by the former administration, we recognised that the Agriculture Incentive Programme and the flood relief packages available to farmers were stuck in a bygone era. The incentives and relief offered failed to address the dynamic agriculture environment. The incentive programme and relief package that existed for decades under the former administration were like a damp match in a dark cave.
“In 2011, after a series of consultations a contemporary Agricultural Incentive Programme was launched, the buck did not stop there. The Ministry of Food Production also appointed a Multi-Sectoral Standing Committee for the Incentive Programme to ensure continuous improvement of the services offered.
Maharaj said: “The main goal of this revised Agricultural Incentive Programme is to stimulate the productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of the agriculture and fisheries sector. We have seen the number of applicants to the Agricultural Incentive Programme expand exponentially since its revision, and this surely indicates the new and renewed interest in the agriculture sector.”
Maharaj said the Ministry of Food Production will continue to engage in a significant amount of work and expend resources to ensure that there is a supportive and enabling agricultural environment to facilitate agricultural ventures. Maharaj said incentives are in place to:
• Encourage youths in agriculture in light of an ageing farming population
• Encourage an increased level of mechanisation to enable agriculture to be technology driven
• Facilitate year-round agricultural activities, such as the promotion of on-farm irrigation systems
• Establish protected agricultural systems such as green houses and shade houses
• Improve husbandry practices and pasture management for increased productivity in the livestock sub-sector
• Support the sustainable management of fishing operations
• Encourage new investment in the sector via the development and expansion of agribusiness ventures; and
• Support the establishment of post harvest facilities.
Regarding flood relief, Maharaj said under the former administration, cobweb settled on the relief package, which was last updated in 1986. He said: “Imagine you were being compensated for produce in 2010 based on 1986 prices. This administration devised a contemporary relief package for the modern day farmer. For the first time, we have expanded assistance to include both crop and livestock farmers and fisherfolk.”
Maharaj said provisional data obtained from the Central Bank on the quarterly gross domestic product showed that the agriculture sector, for the first time in 40 years, experienced five consecutive quarters of growth from the first quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013.
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