PRICE IS RIGHT: Consumers take advantage of the 20 per cent rebate put in place by the Government on National Flour Mills (NFM) flour, oil and rice over the period of December 23 and 24. —Photos: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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Coconut oil not on Govt’s Christmas rebate list

By Michelle Loubon

Philippe Agostini, chief executive officer of Coconut Growers Association, Eastern Main Road, Laventille, has said that, once more, local manufacturers have been ignored since coconut oil was left out of the rebate list intended by the Government to bring consumers Christmas cheer.
Two days of discounts on December 23 and 24 on selected National Flour Mills (NFM) brands of flour, oil and rice were announced at last Thursday’s post-Cabinet news briefing by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Via a telephone interview on Tuesday, Agostini said: “We feel overlooked as Caricom producers of edible oil. Once again, the Ministry overlooked genuine local producers. When it comes to giving away taxpayers’ monies they overlooked us. The Government’s attitude towards local production and Caricom is negative. We already know the damage they have done to us with comments on Jamaica. Right after the election, the PM said T&T was no longer the ATM card for Caricom. It did huge damage to our sales in Jamaica. And even more recently, with comments about Jamaicans being turned away at the airport. People don’t realise what damage it does to us. We have a huge market in Jamaica. We process here and export all over the Caribbean. We provide genuine jobs. And we feel constantly overlooked, especially as to what we provide for the country.”
Agostini added: “Flour Mills does not produce cooking oil. They import it packaged from either Argentina or Brazil. They already import it packaged from scratch. Our packaging, printing and boxes are made locally. We employ Trinidadians as opposed to providing a job on the side of the road. If the PM is giving away taxpayers’ monies it will be nice if they could include cooking oil. Flour Mills is just an importer. They do not produce oil or rice. The Government should encourage local producers and not foreign producers.”
He also said the Trade Ministry should wake up and smell the roses and encourage local production.
Asked about coconut oil not being included in the rebate, Trade Minister Vasant Bharath said: “Coconut oil is not generally used for cooking. We wanted to reduce the cost on the basic items and the Government is the largest shareholder at National Flour Mills. And as a result of it, the Government was able to make that decision. Coconut Growers is a private shareholder. And there are other brands of rice. And they had the opportunity. The rebate is a Government initiative. NFM is partly State-owned. We could not make the decision on behalf of a private enterprise.”
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