As the lush rice hills of Moruga flourishes to produce one of T&T’s unique products, Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat is urging the Moruga Hill Rice Multi-Purpose Society Ltd not to let their product become a one-hit-wonder.
Two years after a group of agriculturalists banded together and registered their cooperative society came the Red Gold Moruga Hill Rice. The cooperative launched its product at the Moruga Light Agro-Processing and Light Industrial Park yesterday.
Delivering the keynote address, Rambharat said that five years from now, he wants to be able to get the unique rice at the supermarket shelves.
“Is it a one-hit-wonder? Would I be able to walk out my home and walk to the supermarket and five years from now, still buy a pack of Moruga Hill Rice?”
Rambharat said while the Society has a unique product, it must not allow others to steal it. As rice is seasonal, he said they must ensure an adequate production to satisfy their existing and potential markets.
“You have to look at markets in terms of a physical market where the product is going to be sold. Also, where it is going to be exported. You cannot behave as we behaved with cricket and pan as though it is the greatest things on earth; we own it, so we do not have to do anything about it, and open the door for people to come and thief it again. Because hill rice has been stolen before.”
Rambharat acknowledged the Society’s issue with land tenure and promised to work with them. Admitting that agriculture as a business suffered because of farmers struggle with land tenure, he said the Estate Management Business Development Company is working to ease this problem.
He said soon the ministry would be able to distribute leases to the fertile lands of Orange Grove and Paramin.
Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon said that once they find themselves in the local market, it was time to progress into the regional and extra-regional markets. Gopee-Scoon said some countries would be interested in the new products.
On Thursday, Cabinet approved ExporTT’s $50 million export booster initiative, which the Cooperative can seek to the help with the marketing of Hill Rice globally.
As she lauded the Society’s achievement, Gopee-Scoon said three firms would now take tenancy in the E-Teck park. Gopee-Scoon added that she was looking for a space for pineapple processing as her ministry seeks to include more local content in manufacturing.
“I am talking to some of our larger industries, and they say that they are importing concentrates from abroad. We have to make sure that those concentrates are made here. We have to ensure that those linkages between agriculture and manufacturing exist. The input into manufacturing that is available here in Trinidad & Tobago, we have to ensure that it is done here. Moruga is the right place for that,” Gopee-Scoon said.
She added that she wants to accelerate the Society’s request for land. She said the ministry could assist by providing a shell and grant a moratorium to the Society while it establishes its product.
“While you get your feet wet in terms of getting access to technology, we will ensure that you have the necessary moratorium so that you can begin to pay your lease rents after a period of time,” Gopee-Scoon said.
Chairman of the Society Rachael Ann Cooper-Lee said COVID-19 negatively impacted food security, supply chains and foreign exchange. As a result, its mission is to improve the livelihood of members through technical and social support. She said they would also provide employment that would empower women, youth and the community.