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Workers package tomatoes at Namdevco’s facility, Chaguanas.

The government’s arrangements concerning National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation’s (NAMDEVCO) food basket programme has come under Opposition scrutiny, particularly regarding KFC franchise holder Prestige Holdings Limited’s involvement.

In Parliament last week, Opposition MP for Naparima Rodney Charles questioned Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on contract details between the recent partnership between Prestige Holdings and NAMDEVCO to increase NAMDEVCO’s food basket capacity.

Trucks from the private company, which is also the franchise holder for Subway, TGIF, Pizza Hut and Starbucks, were used from Wednesday to help transport the baskets.

Rowley said Prestige Holdings offered eight trucks and NAMDEVCO paid for fuel and labour. He said Mario’s has also offered two trucks now, representing a “significant reduction” in contracted costs of 14 trucks used over May or June.

Rowley couldn’t give details beyond what he was initially asked, referring further questions to the appropriate Minister.

Rowley could not say if the owner of Prestige Holdings is the same person who headed the government’s COVID Recovery team. He said he didn’t know as he wasn’t involved in the ownership of Prestige Holdings and again suggested a question on it be filed.

On the query about the farmers/suppliers who NAMDEVCO are purchasing produce to supply Government’s food box programme, Leader of Government Business in the House Camille Robinson- Regis said for the purpose of dealing with farmers, NAMDEVCO categorised Trinidad into ten zones.

The programme attracted more farmers than those on NAMDEVOC’s crop production database. She said at the end of the first four weeks of the programme, NAMDEVCO purchased produce from 209 farmers across the ten zones—an increase from the 76 who benefitted in 2020.

NAMDEVCO purchased in that period $7.1 million in produce, particularly $1.88 million from 72 farmers in areas from Plum Mitan to Rio Claro and $2.7 million from 82 in the three Caroni zones.

Cerebral Palsy Centre operational by September

Regarding registered cases of Cerebral Palsy currently existing in Trinidad and Tobago and the engagement of the Cerebral Palsy Society of T&T (CPSTT), Robinson-Regis said data from the four main organisations serving those with the disorder showed there are 78 adult members and 104 children under the age of 18.

She said her ministry has a long-standing relationship with CPSTT and last week met the President to understand current issues being experienced by the organisation and members.

She added refurbishment on the renamed National Therapeutic and Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities in Carlsen Field was temporarily halted because of the public health regulations but is expected to continue with the relaxation of construction sector restrictions, “Barring unforeseen circumstances, it’s expected the Centre will be fully operational by end of September.”