President of the Trinidad and Tobago Farmers' Union Shiraz Khan predicts that there will be a hike in food prices as a result of an increase in the price of diesel.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced during his budget presentation on Monday that the price of super gasoline would increase from $3.58 per litre to $3.97 and diesel from $2.30 per litre to $3.41, with immediate effect.
Speaking during a post-budget panel discussion on TV6 on Monday night, Khan said transporting goods is not the only thing farmers use diesel for, but for all vehicles and equipment used in land preparation.
“The majority of the farming equipment is diesel,” he said.
“Tractors to prepare the land, my grass chipper is diesel, my vehicle...all our equipment is diesel. So throughout the agricultural sector people will have to pay more for land preparation.”
Khan said farmers are already under strain and the increase in diesel as well as taxes imposed on imported tyres would have a negative impact on farmers' operations.
“Within a matter of two years we have had three increases so farmers already backed against the wall,” he stated. “In the last two years we have been abandoned.”
Khan said while the agricultural sector is being looked at as an avenue towards economic diversification, it simply isn't attractive for newcomers.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West reasoned that the government could not afford to maintain the fuel subsidy on diesel.
“In 2014 it went up to $6 billion,” she stated.
“The country cannot afford that so what we decided was that we would remove the subsidies which benefits everybody across the board regardless of social standing and provide support to the most vulnerable.”
Khan however maintained that the move would result in increased prices or some farmers going out of business.
He suggested that there may even be an increase in crime.
“There is no pathway for the development of the ordinary people of this country. When people cannot eat, that is where you're going to have the problem with crime in this country.”