Internet Radio

TT farmers to get duty-free concessions, but they’ll have to build drainage and irrigation

Trinidad and Tobago’s Finance Minister, Larry Howai delivering his budget presentation in Parliament on Monday.

Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said that Trinidad and Tobago’s farm investors will get duty free concessions but will have to help improve drainage and irrigation at new lands to be allocated.

“We have been working out arrangements with foreign investors that when they develop this land with infrastructure Guyanese farmers will also benefit,”  he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

Ramsammy’s comments Monday afternoon came moments after the Finance Minister of the twin-island republic, Larry Howai announced in his budget presentation that talks were underway with Guyanese authorities on the investment package.

“We have requested of the Government of Guyana that investors from Trinidad and Tobago be eligible to access incentives currently available to Guyanese farmers and be allowed to repatriate profits,” he said.

Ramsammy assured that Trinidad and Tobago farmers would benefit from a level playing field in receiving concessions such as duty-free waivers on all machinery and inputs.

“They are not going to get a deal that is any less than Simpson at Santa Fe (the Barbados-owned entity in Rupununi),” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

Through the Food Security Facility, Guyana will immediately make available 10,000 acres of land in Berbice and a further 90,000 acres as time progresses. Allocation of the land, Ramsammy said, would depend on what the T&T investors want to focus on.

He said that Guyanese would not be disadvantaged by the allocation of lands to T&T farmers. “No land that is presently available for Guyanese will be part of that allocation. They will be new lands.”

The Trinidad and Tobago government will invite private sector investors to plough money into agricultural production in Guyana. Georgetown will in turn facilitate and support such investments.

The Guyanese Agriculture Minister said priorities could include the production of corn and soya bean to help bring down the cost of poultry and other stock-feed. He hopes that the lower prices will trickle down in the cost of chicken and other meat.

The Caribbean needs two million tonnes of corn and soya bean annually.

Tilapia, vegetables, rice and livestock are among the several types of produce that have been explored by technical teams that have visited Guyana in recent months.

While the bulk of employees would be Guyanese, Ramsammy said the emphasis would be on mechanised farming.  “We have not yet concluded on what they are doing,” he said, adding that “It is going to target import substitution for things that we are importing into the region.”

In an apparent effort to address concerns that the Trinidad and Tobago government was not maximizing and allocating lands to farmers there, that country’s Finance Minister highlighted the allocation of large acreages.

He said 4,111 acres of land formerly owned by Caroni Limited and 100 acres of State lands at Tucker Valley have been divided into six small and eight large farms for distribution to farmers.  He also said that 5,800 acres of agriculture lands leased to former employees of Caroni are being brought into cultivation through Growers Responsible for Evolving and Enriching the Environment. “Cultivation and harvesting have already begun and members of the public are benefitting from the farm-fresh produce cultivated through environmentally friendly methods,” he said.