THE Opposition United National Congress (UNC) said yesterday a health crisis could develop among the country’s lower classes as the cost of nutritional foods continues to rise.
The UNC also accused the Government of allowing the agriculture sector to come close to ruin and said pivotal issues of food security and economic diversification are not being tackled.
Opposition Senator David Nakhid said the Government and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley must be taken to task over a failure to place Trinidad and Tobago in a better position to begin reducing its food import bill, which averages around US $ 1 billion annually.
Nakhid noted the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and territorial conflicts on global supply chains, including in agriculture, and said this country had been left vulnerable.
He said there is also concern around local food prices, which appear to be on a steady course of increase as at the start of 2022.
Food items that are considered “basic” and form staples of family meals are now getting too expensive for working and lower income class families, Nahkid said.
He said food security not only meant having food on the table but included the nutritional quality of what was being consumed.
The Opposition said the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government has routinely ignored agriculture and that sector is now suffering from crime, lack of incentives and support, bureaucracy in doing business, and declining infrastructure.
Nakhid expressed little hope that the sector would see some revival under new minister Kazim Hosein, who was moved from Local Government and Rural Development in a surprise Cabinet reshuffle last month.
The Opposition was equally skeptical that the Single Point Land Management Authority, led by former agriculture minister Clarence Rambharat, would significantly change corruption in the acquisition of State lands for agriculture.
Nakhid said agriculture is diminishing under pressure, as farmers struggled with bad access roads and other poor infrastructure and praedial larceny was increasing.
He said Trinidad and Tobago should have achieved better food security and self-sufficiency by now but there were not enough incentives and support to grow agriculture.
Nakhid said small and medium businesses, as well as agriculture, continued to suffer a lack of access to foreign exchange.
He went on to accuse the Government of shutting down the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner, with the closure of the Petrotrin oil refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre.