potential of the agricultural sector



THE EDITOR: TT once had a significant agricultural sector producing cocoa, sugar cane and tobacco to name a few. Farming has been relegated to a less desirable field due to factors such as Sir Arthur Lewis’ dual economic model, the rise of the oil industry, World Trade Organization policies, and most importantly, the stigma attached to farming by the general public.

The agricultural sector currently accounts for 3 percent of the labor force, a huge drop from 8 percent a few decades ago. This has resulted in an annual increase in food imports of between US$4 and US$6 billion.

TT has the wherewithal to provide more than enough food for the entire population. We have land, water, locally made fertilizers and cheap fuel. The government has done everything in its power to revitalize the sector through subsidized loans, agricultural incentive programs, large commercial farms, employment promotion and strengthening of value chains and infrastructure development.

The misfortune of these policies is that they are all wasted as the majority of people are not informed about these opportunities and the stigma of farming. Small farmers in the rural areas claim not to benefit from this policy because they do not become registered farmers, which could be due to imprudent notions about being included in the government database. If the government doesn’t bother to educate the public about the different options available, all their efforts will be in vain.

In today’s technology-packed world, agriculture has become a sector that no longer relies heavily on labor-intensive production, but more on sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and humidity sensors, aerial photography, and GPS technology. These devices have enabled companies to minimize human error and maximize profits, efficiency and environmental friendliness.

The three percent of the workforce that makes up the agricultural sector could be enough to produce food for the whole country and more if those people can be educated on the phenomenon of agricultural technology. Technologies can lead to higher per-farmer productivity and crop yields, as well as reduced use of water, fertilizers and pesticides, which can protect natural ecosystems by reducing chemical runoff into rivers and groundwater. The robotic systems can enable more reliable monitoring and management of natural resources such as air and water quality.

The Agricultural Development Bank provides farmers with concessional short– to medium-term loans at an interest rate of three to five percent, which farmers can use to invest in these technologies. These loans have a term of seven years and a down payment of 20 percent of the farmers’ equity. This is made possible by annual grants from the budget.

This is just one of the many avenues the government has made available to farmers. Another way is through the agricultural incentive program. This provides capital grants to offset the cost of farm equipment and machinery, livestock facilities, post-harvest and processing facilities, and farm security.

The percentage costs with a maximum value limit are: soil protection 100 percent; construction and rehabilitation of citrus, coffee, cocoa and coconut farms, 100 percent; pest control (integrated pest control), 50 percent; Import of goats, sheep, breeding pigs, 100 percent; Start-up by young farmers, 50 percent.

These are just some of the very extensive domestic policies that the government has enacted to boost agribusiness. All that remains is to educate and sensitize the public to these opportunities so that they can be used wisely. A farmer can feed 26 people using traditional farming methods, but with modern farming technologies, a farmer can feed an average of 155 people. These technologies also help protect the environment.

ANTONIO FIGARO

by email

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