WHEN food prices rise, do not blame farmers, blame the Government for not putting proper measures in place to keep food prices down.
This was the view expressed by president of the Trinidad Unified Farmers’ Association Shiraz Khan, who said stakeholders involved in the agriculture sector were not pleased with the 2013-2014 National Budget allocation of $1.3 billion to the Agriculture Ministry.
The allocation was the same as last year’s.
Khan was speaking at Tuesday’s post-budget breakfast forum hosted by the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) and the Co-operative Cre-dit Union League of Trinidad and Tobago, at OWTU’s building, Circular Road, San Fernando.
Khan also said stakeholders were against Government’s decision to use land in Guyana for agricultural purposes.
“Charity begins at home. You leaving our farmers in Trinidad and Tobago to go Guyana. What you all going to do there? They (Government) gave out 1,000 acres of land for the Chaguanas West by-election and they going to plant 10,000 acres in Guyana.
“If it is they give the farmers here proper roads to go into their lands, give them irrigation systems in the dry season and save them from flooding in the rainy season, we will be able to produce food.”
Khan said agricultural land was significantly cheaper in Guyana because the Guyanese government “care about feeding their people and making their farmers a better livelihood”.
In July, more than 400 ex-Caroni workers received leases from the Government.
Khan said others should be granted such leases.
Economist Indera Sagewan-Alli, who also spoke at the forum, said she agreed with Khan’s statement that the food import bill was too high and that mechanisms be put in place to reduce prices as well as assist farmers.