Business must take the lead in agriculture” | Additional News

According to agricultural economist Dr Lorraine Waldropt-Ferguson, the development of agriculture must be business-led and not solely focused on government allocation to industry.

In Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s budget presentation on Monday, the Department of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries was allocated $1.330 billion.

Speaking yesterday at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce post-budget conference at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad in Port of Spain, Waldropt-Ferguson said that as a business community, it needs to take the lead in the industry and not to be “considered the black sheep”.

“We don’t even need an exporter, or a group like that…although it is very important to facilitate the various transactions between the ministry, as the industry still needs to access incentives and subsidies. As a business community, we need to build the business model to lead the way instead of letting the government lead,” she stressed.

The agricultural economist, attached to the University of the West Indies (UWI), has often said that the attention paid to agriculture focuses on the social aspect and research, but that if it is not treated as a business, it will not grow.

“Instead of farmers going on TV and protesting, it’s probably time for the business community to take the lead and demand change, in terms of the long process and how the money is allocated in terms of the budget” , Waldropt-Fergusson said.

She noted that the agricultural sector is underutilized, underexplored and negatively stereotyped.

Waldropt-Ferguson called on business groups and the wider community to change their focus and see the sector from a different perspective, as she pointed out that there are weaknesses in the industry, such as a low national food production, low exports, unavailability of labour, non-productivity and lackluster investments.

“With agriculture there are a lot of risks, but with any business you take risks, however, we see agriculture as a big risk that we cannot find solutions to solve,” he said. she stated.

Waldropt-Ferguson said T&T has intellectual minds within the agriculture industry, and “we are losing those great minds.”

“We are losing these great minds to other countries like Australia, some Asian countries and the United States because agriculture is more developed there. The attitude towards agriculture here is not good as it is seen as the black sheep. This narrative needs to change,” she said.

Waldropt-Ferguson added that there are business opportunities worth exploring within the industry.

T&T Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Charles Pashley, in his welcome address, also said that agriculture was unfortunately the “black sheep” of national budgets.

“Even now agriculture received almost the same as last year in the budget, the second lowest overall. But we have felt the effects of inflation linked to global disruptions in supply chains, and the issue of food security suddenly arises in Trinidad and Tobago and the region.

“Caricom has set itself a target of increasing agricultural production by 25% by 2025, but it is already recognized that we must do much more,” Pashley lamented.