Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Speech by Minister of Food Production at the Commissioning of Fullerton Fish Facility

Colm Imbert recently said that he noticed a tremendous shift in the allocation of resources away from north Trinidad into central and south. Another PNM MP, Patricia Mc Intosh, also endorsed his statements. Clearly, this would explain the lack-luster development and failure in service delivery suffered by the people of this beautiful district for over a decade.

Nevertheless, we are here today (Wednesday) to commission the newly refurbished Fullerton Fishing Facility, which I expect would be properly maintained and managed to the full benefit of resident fisherfolk.

Rural development has various dimensions but it is particularly the development of the agricultural sector, which is widely believed to provide the main impetus not only for reducing poverty and hunger but also for ensuring food security for all. The various types of aquaculture form an important component within agricultural and farming systems development.

Food demand, and in particular the demand for fish, has continued to rise, and it is forecasted that expanding populations and changing eating habits will make a doubling of food output imperative in the next few decades. This demand mainly has to be met from local food production systems.

Globally, aquaculture contributes to poverty alleviation as it provides employment to millions of people, both in the sector itself as well as in support services.
In coastal areas, the farming of mud crabs, oysters, mussels, shrimps, fish and seaweeds provides employment for the rural poor mainly related to labour inputs as well as seed and feed collection. It also generates income, and as prices for most food commodities fall, fish prices are expected to rise reflecting the imbalance between demand and supply.

With this reality and importance, fish and fisheries – both marine and inland – are an intrinsic part of the livelihoods of many in Trinidad and Tobago. Relevant research indicates the important contribution to food security made by fish caught as a part-time occupation of essentially agricultural households. The interface between the resource and people’s livelihoods – especially those of the landless development – has so far been largely disregarded in the policies of previous governments and donors, which tend to be dominated by high seas fishing interests and other aspects of sectoral policy.

Public–private partnerships in aquaculture and the establishment of aquaculture and fisheries networks have shown to be able to contribute considerably to sector development. Although the establishment of such partnerships and networks may be a time consuming, costly and a difficult task, they make it possible to address constraints and opportunities in a manner that would otherwise not have been allowed. Cooperation between Government, NGOs, associations, and civil society further provides opportunities for awareness raising, targeting and creating dialogues between the various stakeholders. 

Regional cooperation between aquaculture and fish farmers, producers and marketing associations such as NAMDEVCO, research institutes and Governments is essential.

A supportive institutional environment involving public and private sectors is required for aquaculture and fisheries to contribute to improved livelihoods. The rural poor need to be provided, at least initially, with public sector support, while commercial activity requires less intervention. In the longer term, aquaculture and fisheries has to function on a self-financing basis within the private sector.

This Government has made that endearing step to provide significant infrastructural investment in fish landing sites as well as fish processing facilities, as was also recently opened in Claxton Bay. We have also revised and improved the Agricultural Incentive Programme to consider marine fisheries and aquaculture.
Necessary action includes focusing limited public resources on strategic infrastructure and flexible and efficient extension services that meet producers’ needs, to promote and facilitate the private sector production of feed and seed, to encourage credit for medium- and large-scale producers, to facilitate the formation of farmers’ associations and encourage community production, and to encourage investment in building the institutional capacity and knowledge base concerning sustainable aquaculture and fisheries practices to manage the sector.
There is, however, a need for assessing and documenting information on experiences and application of good practices, and for raising awareness and advocating products and benefits derived from aquaculture and fisheries. Information exchange and transfer through collaboration and coordination between national and regional institutions and agencies should be promoted. 

Experiences from traditional and other aquaculture systems that have proven to be sustainable and the lessons learnt should be promoted and disseminated as part of strategies for an effective transfer of aquaculture knowhow into areas and regions where it has no tradition. Capacity building should be based on a participatory farmer-focussed and needs-based approach similar to Farmer Field Schools.

This is the thinking and commitment that went into drafting a note to Cabinet with a plan to support the creation of an enabling environment for the reduction of crime and poverty using food production as a catalyst. This is to engage young people, in the most part, to establish mini-aquaponics systems in at-risk communities in Trinidad and Tobago.

Cedros has however historically been a fishing village and coconut grove, producing much of the coconuts for harvest. I am pleased to inform you, as some may already know, we have supported the Coconut Industry Transformation Committee.
There is an MoU between the St. Patrick Coconut Growers Association and the Coconut Development Board of India, this partnership, again, must be commended. The successful roll-out of plans, based on financing, will certainly bring future economic prosperity and revitalization to an area which has unfortunately fallen into depression.

We are also seeking to re-open the breeding unit soon. This will facilitate the provision and sale of breeding stock, veterinary services, training for farmers and stakeholders. We also plan to open a propagation station to provide planting and seed material as well as other necessary inputs.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai