Southex shows how to tap into agriculture


A field of peppers in Wallerfield. PHOTO OF ROGER JACOB – ROGER JACOB

As food and food security become the center of global deliberations, local entrepreneurs interested in agriculture are encouraged to seize the opportunities now.

Extending the invite, Southex Promotions CEO George Singh sold the idea to creative, entrepreneurial people on the opportunities of aquaculture, hydroponics and the many different aspects of agriculture. .

Head of an entertainment event promotion team, Singh, reading the global environment, seized the opportunity to host the inaugural Agriculture and Food Expo 2022 – Our Life, Our Business at Gulf City Mall, La Romaine. It was the first in over 20 years.

Singh’s goal is to make this exhibition, which opened on August 3 and ended on August 7 with a large farmers’ market, the region’s most important agricultural event.

He set a three-year timeline for this event which he conceptualized, in partnership with the Supermarket Association (SATT), the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Georgetown (GCIC).

The feedback has been great, he said, and already places have been reserved for the 2023 edition.

The successful five-day initiative came weeks before the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries will host the TT Agri-Investment Forum and Expo 11, scheduled for August 19-21 in Port of Spain.

Opening the five-day event, Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi, picking up where Singh left off, emboldened current and aspiring entrepreneurs that it was time to dream because “cooperative initiatives exist”.

“The Prime Minister himself has led the charge of regional integration significantly, so much so that the President of Guyana, Irfaan Ali, will be here on August 17 (to attend the exhibition) to ensure that the terrestrial space of Guyana is available for the whole of Caricom.

Southex Promotions CEO George Singh hopes to make the recent agriculture and food expo the region’s biggest farming event. PHOTO BY Marvin Hamilton – Marvin Hamilton

Al-Rawi said providing food security and import substitution is no longer just talk, it is operationalizing.

“I can brag that the agricultural industry is practically 100% tax exempt. The incentives are there. »

Soon, he said, his ministry will present to Cabinet a proposal for commercial farming in urban areas. He said it will be an opportunity for business management and dreams.

“It means an opportunity for business development, jobs, food production and import substitution.”

He hailed Singh for using the business to show agricultural potential and encouraged people to dream of agricultural investments.

“Money grows on trees. It’s called agriculture,” Al-Rawi joked.

Singh said he is happy to create space for respect and investment in the sector.

“We hope that through this creation and the annual organization of this event, we will be able to create people-centered development, empower stakeholders and create pathways for poverty reduction.

“Through this exhibition, we hope to raise awareness and provide opportunities for current and future players in the agricultural industries.

“People need to start tapping into the many opportunities for entrepreneurs interested in aquaculture, hydroponics and the many aspects of the industry.

“Food and nutrition security has become a trending topic in recent months. Therefore, the timing of this event is actually perfect for the environment we find ourselves in.

As initiatives like these turn into defined goals, SATT President Rajiv Diptee said his association is interested in looking at initiatives that provide opportunities to tap into the value chain.

“This is where we think we could make a real dent in the food import bill. When we consider what food security means for customers, we obviously come back to agricultural production.”

Taking a holistic look at the issue, he said: “It means working with the government. It means working within a legislative framework to make it happen. This means working now with producers in the value chain, people who can contribute to the activity.

“We’re looking at investments and we’re also looking at getting store buy-in to support that, the final end product, for the consumer because we have to market it, we have to make it appealing and we have to put it out there to that today’s consumers truly understand what import substitution means.

San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello looks on as Faris Al-Rawi, Minister of Rural Development and Local Government, speaks with Rennie’s Cocoa and Coffee Products, one of the companies at the Southex Agriculture and Food Expo 2022 Gulf City Mall at La Romaine on August 3 PHOTO BY Marvin Hamilton – Marvin Hamilton

Agriculture Minister Avinash Singh, himself a big farmer, said agriculture has a bright future ahead of it.

He called for more collaboration between the private and public sectors and praised Singh for opening his eyes to vast opportunities in a sector considered risky.

He said the effort should be made to make farming sexier, as tools and equipment have made it less tedious, “to involve more people. The terminology goes beyond gender.

TT Chamber Chairman Charles Pashley has endorsed Avinash Singh’s efforts for increased collaboration between the private sector and government.

“Food security has taken center stage in the global debate. I think we have to recognize that even though we are discussing food security, we have to know that it requires long-term investment in research and development, as well as varied infrastructure works and stakeholder engagement – sector private and government.

Pashley lamented: “For decades, as a country, we have put agriculture aside as something to be resurrected at some point in the future. Our food and agriculture sector is currently in the spotlight as we deal with the fallout of a war in Eastern Europe.

“It reminds us in the most tangible way that we live in a truly globalized society, with truly globalized concerns, but the localized impact on our people and our nation cannot be understated.”

One of the reasons the Chamber accepted the offer to partner with Southex, Pashley said, “was the realization that we need to reinforce the message and keep agriculture and agro-processes at the forefront of discussions. economic and commercial, so the partnership with Southex and the SATT is a great step forward.