Moruga gets $90m agro-processing plant

Sascha Wil­son

As he of­fi­cial­ly opened the first agro-pro­cess­ing plant in the coun­try yes­ter­day, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley said it was a gift to the peo­ple of south Trinidad.

Dur­ing his fea­ture ad­dress at the open­ing of the $90 mil­lion Moru­ga Agro-Pro­cess­ing And Light In­dus­tri­al Park, Row­ley said the op­er­a­tion will gen­er­ate thou­sands of jobs and will in­crease food sup­ply and im­prove food se­cu­ri­ty in the coun­try.

Tak­ing a jab at his crit­ics, Row­ley said there has been much talk about in­vest­ment in the agri­cul­tur­al sec­tor but his Gov­ern­ment had fi­nal­ly de­liv­ered.

“That should come as a sur­prise to many peo­ple be­cause when you con­sid­er the amount of talk about agri­cul­ture in this coun­try, one would have thought that some­where in Trinidad and To­ba­go, agro-pro­cess­ing would have de­mand­ed that a park spe­cialised for that pur­pose would ex­ist some­where.”

He said many of those who talk about agri­cul­ture ac­tu­al­ly know noth­ing about the sec­tor.

“But we have moved from talk and to­day we have moved the nee­dle con­sid­er­ably from talk­ing about agri­cul­ture to do­ing some­thing about agri­cul­ture in Trinidad and To­ba­go be­cause this park is a cat­a­lyst to at­tract…the use of agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts, pri­ma­ry prod­ucts that can be and will be pro­duced in this part of the coun­try.”

He said prod­ucts will be pro­duced in sig­nif­i­cant vol­umes, mak­ing it ei­ther eas­i­ly avail­able to the rest of the coun­try as fresh pro­duce, pack­aged for it to last longer on the shelves and/or be ex­port­ed. He said five years ago he made a cam­paign promise to the peo­ple of Moru­ga for change and op­por­tu­ni­ty in ex­change for their sup­port and the park has now pre­sent­ed them with an op­por­tu­ni­ty to get on the band­wag­on of pro­duc­tion in T&T.

“It is for you to chew now, it is in your mouth, it in your hands,” he ad­vised them.

How­ev­er, the Prime Min­is­ter said the Gov­ern­ment has not on­ly in­vest­ed in in­fra­struc­ture but has al­so giv­en in­cen­tives in the agri­cul­tur­al sec­tor to en­cour­age pro­duc­tion.

“Tax-free in agri­cul­ture be­cause it is so im­por­tant that the na­tion be fed and un­der­stand­ing that we are un­der­per­form­ing in agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion, that this in­cen­tive of a tax break has been giv­en and ex­ists,” Row­ley said.

He sin­gled out co­coa beans and pineap­ples as two prod­ucts with sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial for growth and the cre­ation of a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of jobs.

“Do you al­so know as you should, here in T&T some of the best pineap­ples are grown in this coun­try. So then why are we im­port­ing pineap­ple when we have the po­ten­tial to grow and sup­ply to those piz­za com­pa­nies?”

While mil­lions of dol­lars are spent on im­port­ing pineap­ple, he said they have a com­mit­ment from busi­ness­men on the Road Map to Re­cov­ery that they will pur­chase pineap­ple lo­cal­ly once it is avail­able on a sus­tained ba­sis.

“There is a com­mit­ment from Phase One of the Road Map to Re­cov­ery post-COVID that those who im­port have said we want to work with the lo­cal farm­ers, the lo­cal pro­duc­ers, to en­sure that they pro­duce pineap­ple and we will buy from that in­stead of im­port­ing,” he said.

“All we want from them is a com­mit­ment to pro­duce so that when we need it it is avail­able, so you have to pro­duce more on a sus­tained ba­sis … That is on­ly one crop. So in­stead of see­ing $30 mil­lion in im­ports at the end of the year of some­body else’s pineap­ple, we might see and we should see $30 mil­lion of prod­uct in Trinidad and To­ba­go and we should have pineap­ple for ex­port be­cause Trinidad and To­ba­go, we should be­come well known around the world with a mar­ket for that high-qual­i­ty prod­uct that can be pro­duced right here in Trinidad and To­ba­go.

“So we cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ty. What this in­vest­ment is is op­por­tu­ni­ty.”

Not­ing some of their oth­er in­vest­ments in agri­cul­ture, Row­ley said the Gov­ern­ment has pro­vid­ed tens of thou­sands of plant­i­ng ma­te­r­i­al to farm­ers and they have set about in­creas­ing live­stock pro­duc­tion.

En­cour­ag­ing farm­ers and en­tre­pre­neurs to make full use of the fa­cil­i­ty, which is sit­u­at­ed on 18 acres of land, he added, “This is a gift from the peo­ple of Trinidad and To­ba­go to our fel­low cit­i­zens of the south coast.”

The Prime Min­is­ter as­sured that the coun­try was on the road to di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and food se­cu­ri­ty. Al­so speak­ing at the event was Min­is­ter of Trade Paula Gopee-Scoon, who said the project was fi­nan­cial­ly vi­able and more than 50 in­di­vid­u­als and en­ti­ties had al­ready shown in­ter­est in it.

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