Sep 4, 2010

Local fruits are hard to find Disappearing act|Newsd@y

When one takes a stroll in the market in search of fruits, the ones that are prominent on the stalls are apples, grapes, pears and apricots.

Citizens have expressed great concern that they no longer see their favourite local fruits on the market including mangoes, pomeracs, ceries, star apples, sapodillas, pommecythere, limes, lemons, passion fruit and avocados.

Education and Research Officer of the National Food Crop Farmers Association, (NFCFA) Norris Deonarine, said the harsh dry season experienced earlier in the year really affected the production levels of the country’s local fruits.

He also believed, the country’s fruit industry started to really decline when Caroni 1975 Limited was shut down.

“There used to be a big production in citrus both in orange and grapefruit along Todds Road, since the closure, the orchards on that estate have not been maintained and the project has not been picked up and it is unfortunate. We used to export orange and grapefruit juice, this is why we have been calling for the revitalisation of the agriculture sector,” he said.

“Over the years, since the closure of Caroni 1975 Limited, we have seen a decline in the production of our local fruits, mainly our citrus, from grapefruit to oranges, we have not been able to produce the large quantity that we did before and it is really unfortunate.

“The governments in the past never really focused on improving the agriculture sector, they did things without looking at the long term effects on the economy, imagine we import almost everything we consume now and that shouldn’t be,” he said.

Recently, Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath announced the ministry was going to take crucial steps in reviving the country’s industry. At a meeting with farmers, Bharath lamented how TT now imports grapefruit, after exporting one million crates in 1975.

Deonarine said besides grapefruit, the country was a big exporter of pineapples. He said in the past, the country exported 20,000 pineapples to Barbados but that has also been on the decline.

Every time I read a story about the loss of crops due to the closure of Caroni Limited I get so upset. Most of the people who were not involved in Caroni limited supported the measures taken by the PNM to close down Caroni limited. Now we can really see the impact this company had on the country.

Most people only saw the sugar cane and failed to see the impact that Caroni had fruit, ground vegetables and root products. Caroni also had a great impact on animals for food production and was responsible for the buffalypso.

We now also have mosquito problems and flooding in areas that were once maintained by Caroni limited that were simply neglected by the government of the day when they closed the company. What a shame and this is the legacy of the PNM... I am so upset about this situation.

We can recover but it would cost a lot of money. It has already cost us dearly with the previous government doling out arable lands for housing (what a dumb idea) and certain parcels of lands going to people who will not use the land for food production.

We need to get back into the production of some sugar cane for the local market. This will benefit the country. We don't need to produce sugar for export but for local consumption. The rum industry will also benefit as well as the agricultural industry. Caroni limited can be a financially viable company if managed properly and will create much needed employment. Revive the company and make it a success story.






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