REMARKS OF AMBASSADOR AAD BIESEBROEK OF THE DELEGATION OF THE EUROPEAN UNION TO TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Handing-over Ceremony of Multicrates and other Assets to APP Project Beneficiaries in Trinidad and Tobago and closing of the activities under the APP in Trinidad and Tobago
Auditorium of the Central Experiment Station, Centeno
Tuesday 14 March, 2017
- the Honourable Senator and Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Mr. Clarence Rambharat,
- Ms. Dhano Sookoo, President – Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ASTT),
- Mr. Gregg C. E. Rawlins, IICA Representative in Trinidad and Tobago and Coordinator, Regional Integration, Caribbean Region,
- Distinguished farmers,
- Members of the Media,
- Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. Thank you very much for the invitation to speak at this handing-over ceremony and formal closing of activities under the Agricultural Policy Programme. The European Union understands well the importance of agriculture which is one of the traditional pillars of support the EU offers to developing countries. This is because we realize that food production and food security are important facets of the economic development and stability of every region.
In the Caribbean, this support becomes even more critical since we recognize that 60% of the food consumed here is imported. 60%! This is an indication of the potential to grow the agriculture sector in the region. The distinguished farmers who are here today are proof of the efforts to exploit that opportunity and we stand ready to assist.
In that regard, let me give you a brief overview of some of the EU support to the agriculture sector in Trinidad and Tobago:
Under the sugar restructuring programmes ("Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol Countries") that were completed last year, we provided grants of about 75 million euros to promote diversification and to transform the agricultural sector and increase domestic food production. During the programme years total food production in T&T actually recorded a trend increase until 2013. Given the share of agriculture in GDP of about 0.4%, there is, of course, much more potential in the sector, which the Government aims to successively realize despite the serious impediments.
Under the ACP Agricultural Regional Programme which is being phased out, there were several important regional agricultural projects, some of them being managed by the EU Delegation here in Trinidad such as the programme focusing specifically on the development needs of smallholder agriculture (8.6 million euros). CARDI and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) were project partners together with the Secretariat of the Caribbean Community. The programme has now come to an end and there are some good results the sector can build on. This pertains especially to IICA and Cardi research.
Under the 11th EDF regional programme a new project in support of agriculture was recently approved, which is the continuation of the former project "Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures," which aims to increase production and trade in agriculture and fisheries, and to ensure these sectors meet international standards while protecting plant, animal and human health and the environment. This project falls under support to implement the European Partnership Agreement.
Please let me also mention our specific support to the coconut industry: In December 2015, a four year 3.5 million Euro project was implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Geneva, titled "Coconut industry development for the Caribbean" with the objective to enhance small scale coconut producers' competitiveness through better regional integration and improved production performance in nine CARIFORUM countries. This includes, of course, Trinidad and Tobago. The goals of this project are:
- To create and reinforce producer organizations and support services for coconut producers;
- To assist in market orientation and facilitation of public and private sector stakeholders to formulate their own market and sector development plans and coordinate their implementation; and to
- And finally to support an integrated value chain development for the coconut industry and overall increase of increasing community incomes.
Under the EU's ACP Science and Technology programme, a project to develop the world renowned Cocoa Research Centre at the UWI Trinidad into the "International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre (IFCIC)" ran from March 2014 until last month (February 2017).
The main idea of this project was to capitalise on the existing Science Technology and Innovation expertise and converting it into innovations, applications & services for end beneficiaries.
Last but not least I would like to mention our bilateral "Programme in support of a competitive and innovative economy" with a budget of 8 million Euros and an implementation period of about 3 years. Since agriculture is a priority sector of the Government and could greatly benefit from innovations, including ICT, ecological farming, better connection with tourism, we hope this programme will include projects promoting these aspects. This will depend on the Government as the Government's innovation policy is currently being finalised.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Given the presence of the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, please allow me to specifically mention the last Technical Assistance project of the sugar restructuring programmes, which was titled "Conduct of a market based survey for pesticide residues on agricultural produce in Trinidad and Tobago". This project delivered, among other outputs, a draft pesticide management action plan to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. In the final meeting of this project on 4th March 2016, the representatives of both Ministries agreed to propose to their Ministers to appoint a steering committee, which would lead the way towards implementing a modern pesticide management system and proper legislation.
In closing I would like to invite all interested parties to explore opportunities for the development of new agriculture programmes under the regional economic cooperation and integration component of the regional indicative programme. Any proposal should have a regional dimension and should be discussed with the national authorities as well as with the CARICOM/CARIFORUM organizations.
I am grateful for your attention and we wish the farmers and all participants here every possible success in growing the agriculture sector.
Thank you very much!