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EU delegation meets with cane producers
The delegation of the European Union to Trinidad and Tobago met on Friday with the Cane Producers’ Association to discuss the EU support to the sugar sector. The meeting follows a request made by the secretary of the Cane Farmers Association, Seukeran Tambie, to discuss the issue of direct payment of EU funds to farmers. Cane farmers have been systematically consulted on the EU programme of support since its initiation in 2007. They have also repeatedly been invited by the chargé d’affaires of the European Union to make proposals for performance indicators and measures which could enable them to increase food production and assist them in mitigating the impact of the closure of the sugar industry.
The chargé d’affaires of the T&T delegation, Stelios Christopoulos, stated: “We were happy to meet with Mr Tambie once more to clarify the EU’s position on grant funding to the sugar industry again. “As we have stated in the past, while we hope that former cane farmers will be among the main beneficiaries of the grant funding which is delivered as sector budget support, direct cash compensation payments have never been foreseen,” he said. “The EU closely follows and monitors measures taken by the Government to improve agricultural infrastructure such as, access roads, drainage and irrigation on former sugar lands. “We are satisfied with the steps taken so far and confident that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will continue its policy of using EU funding in ways that will benefit the farmers.
“I hope that this time, farmers’ associations, including the cane producers association, will at last come forward with constructive proposals of how to better use the EU funding to improve enabling conditions and agricultural infrastructure on the former sugar lands.” In March this year, the EU disbursed €12.974.000 in sector budget support to the T&T Govt. The funding is part of a total allocation of €77.144 million that will be made available to the T&T Government to diversify the sugar industry. Sector budget support is a policy based instrument to deliver development assistance to eligible countries. Under the mechanism, funds are transferred to the national Treasury of the partner country to assist in the development of their strategic priorities and not to fund any specific project.
T&T Government has thus far already implemented a number of measures to benefit the farmers and workers, including:
TT$82 million in payments to more than 3,000 cane farmers;
the issuance of agricultural leases to former Caroni employees;
training in agricultural production;
technical and agricultural training for 2,400 former employees of Caroni;
regularisation of the status of farmers squatting on Caroni lands;
compensation to 9,000 former employees of Caroni (1975) Ltd;
purchase of pension annuities for former Caroni employees;
construction of 492 km of access roads for 17 agricultural estates and 28 subdivisions and
a new agricultural incentive programme for farmers.
The Government has indicated its plans to use future funding to, among others, increase domestic food production and decrease Trinidad and Tobago's dependency on food imports—a strategy that the EU fully supports.