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Rambharat: Mega farms under review

The trinidad Guardian / Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat says the concept of mega-farms is under review but he is in favour of giving more land to productive farmers.

He said in many cases lands allocated for mega-farms have not been fully accessed.

“Some people say they are waiting on a lease and some over a period of time have lost interest in developing the lands,” he said.

The minister said the review involves looking at the approvals granted and determining the status of each project in terms of expectations and the extent to which they were met.

“We are looking at what is happening on each site to determine the future of it,” he said.

The mega-farm were established during the Patrick Manning administrations in 2008. Cuban consultants were brought in to advise the government and assisted with the 200-acre mega-farm established in Tucker Valley, Chaguaramas. However, that farm failed to produce enough to meet local demand.

Initially, 15 farms were identified but several of them did not begin production. The project was restarted under the People’s Partnership with farms in Orange Valley, Edinburgh and Felicity.

Rambharat said what the Chaguaramas Development Authority did with the mega-farm at Tucker Valley has to be done with the other farms.

“We need to determine whether they are fully utilising the land, or they are prepared to work with smaller plots,” he said.

The minister felt farmers who are producing and require more land should be given the opportunity to get the land they need to increase production.

He said: “There are so many productive farmers with expired leases, farmers who squatting on State land. If they are given tenure and new leases, they will be more motivated to develop the land and increase production.”

Rambharat said there is a need for a mix of small and larger farmers.

“Not so much mega-farms, but experienced farmers having larger acreages. We have put as a priority making additional lands available to farmers who are productive and need more land to produce short-term crops, long-term crops and breed livestock,” he said.

“We need to simplify the process for people who need additional lands so that they can access that land and incentivise those who are productive,” he said.

Rambharat said the two mega-farms owned and operated by Joe Pires of Caribbean Chemicals Limited at Chaguanas and Tucker Valley. The more than 40 acres of land Pires recently “surrendered,” in Tucker Valley will remain in agricultural production, he said.

“The whole idea is that those lands will be distributed to farmers in the Chaguaramas area. Some of those farmers said they were displaced in the events of Guave Road. That matter is in court but the opportunity exists for some farmers to come on this site,” he said.

Pires said fruit trees and vegetables are being cultivated on the land in Chaguaramas. The farm in Edinburgh, Chaguanas is also in full production.

The PCS Nitrogen’s model farm started in 2008 also remains in production.

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