Farmers who received letters of comfort pose with administrator of the Division of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries Wendell Bernard, THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis and THA chief administrator Bernadette Solomon-Koroma.

With the launch of the farmland development programme on Thursday, Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Ancil Dennis says the objective is for Tobago to begin producing its own food within the next four years.

Dennis made the comment at the distribution of letters of comfort to 35 farmers at Belmont Road, one of the seven estates where farmers have been given state lands.

Dennis noted that all the information and reports suggest that there are several opportunities available economically if they place a more serious focus and emphasis on food production in Tobago.

“I am sure that all of us are aware that as a country, we import most of what we eat and also as an island, we also import from Trinidad most of what we eat, most of our vegetables, most of our meats including chicken, comes from Trinidad and therefore we have an opportunity here in Tobago to turn that situation around and return to a scenario where Tobago produces sufficiently, not only to feed itself but also to supply the Trinidad market,” Dennis said.

Noting that he has visited several farms and agricultural projects over the past few months, he added, “I was quite impressed by what I saw because I recognised that it was contrary to all the dotish talk that agriculture in Tobago is dead and nothing is happening in the sector.”

With all the developments in the tourism sector, he noted that there were also now more opportunities for farmers.

“The question has to be asked, where will the eggs come from to supply these hotels? Where will the chickens come from? Where will the lettuce, vegetables and all that is required, where will it come from? Must we import it from Trinidad? Must we import it from overseas? And I am suggesting to all of us that Tobago, by the time those developments come on stream before 2025, we must be in a position to produce all that is required that can be produced here in Tobago.”

He explained that the Farmland Development programme involves the development of seven estates that will make available to Tobagonians some 600 acres of land to 300 farmers.

He said the farmers were also being assisted with a $100,000 grant.

Outlining all the developments and investments the THA has undertaken in the agricultural sector, Bernadette Solomon-Koroma, deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tobago Development, said despite their efforts, there is need for significant advancement in the sector.

“The need to properly and adequately manage this critical sector is paramount to the island’s development particularly with respect to recovery in post-COVID-19 where economic diversification and advancement in the sector are key elements,” Solomon-Koroma said.