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Trinidad suffers drastic decline in rice production

By Shaliza Hassanali

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(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Lo­cal rice pro­duc­tion dropped from 21,000 met­ric tonnes in 1992 to just 585 met­ric tonnes last year, a Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee (JSC) chaired by An­tho­ny Viera heard from Na­tion­al Flour Mills (NFM) chair­man Nigel Ro­mano yes­ter­day.

Ro­mano, who gave a break­down of the quan­ti­ty of rice pro­duced in tes­ti­mo­ny be­fore the JSC on State En­ter­pris­es, said in 1992 NFM pur­chased ap­prox­i­mate­ly 21,200 met­ric tonnes of pad­dy from farm­ers. By 2013, the fig­ure plum­met­ed to 2,859 met­ric tonnes, then to 1,893 met­ric tonnes in 2015 and last year, NFM bought just 585 met­ric tonnes.

Grade one pad­dy fetch­es $2.99 per kg, while farm­ers col­lect $2.85 per kg for grade two. Ap­prox­i­mate­ly 34,000 met­ric tonnes is con­sumed in T&T an­nu­al­ly.

NFM CEO Kelvin Ma­habir ad­mit­ted that the com­pa­ny’s rice mill at Carlsen Field is op­er­at­ing at 15 per cent ca­pac­i­ty be­cause of in­suf­fi­cient pad­dy.

In an­swer to a ques­tion from JSC mem­ber Fazal Karim, Ma­habir said “95 per cent ends up as in­put in­to an­i­mal feed, while five per cent is used for hu­man con­sump­tion. Karim said those watch­ing the meet­ing on tele­vi­sion would con­clude “that there is a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt by NFM to close down the rice in­dus­try.”

Ro­mano said the rice mill has no fa­cil­i­ties for pro­duc­ing par­boiled rice. He said they have iden­ti­fied an in­vestor to up­grade the mill and es­tab­lish a par­boil­ing fa­cil­i­ty which would help in­crease lo­cal pro­duc­tion and its vi­a­bil­i­ty.

“With­out that, any at­tempt to grow and pro­duce more in Trinidad, we would end up in dif­fi­cul­ty. We would be sup­ply­ing some­thing for which there is very lit­tle de­mand,” Ma­habir said.

Ro­mano said the mill will be able to process 12,000 met­ric tonnes of pad­dy an­nu­al­ly, and the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture will give farm­ers tech­ni­cal ad­vice and train­ing.

JSC mem­ber Lester Hen­ry asked if rice is an im­por­tant com­po­nent of NFM’s pro­duc­tion, to which Ro­mano replied: “It’s not part of our core busi­ness.”

Mem­ber Wade Mark said he be­lieved farm­ers have be­come frus­trat­ed­with NFM not pay­ing them on time, a prob­lem which he says has been go­ing for months. Ro­mano agreed there is room for im­prove­ment with the com­pa­ny’s pay­ment process.

“What ex­plains 3,000 met­ric tonnes in 2013 to slip to 585 met­ric tonnes in 2018? Some­thing has to be wrong. Some analy­sis must be made by the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and NFM. If this con­tin­ues in three years there will be no pad­dy and farm­ing com­mu­ni­ty. I don’t know what is the game plan,” Mark said.

This article was posted in its entirety as received by This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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