President of the Aranguez United Farmers Association, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj.

The Aranguez United Farmers Association (AUFA) wants new Agriculture Minister Kazim Hosein to address the cost of production for farmers.

Association head, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, said several factors are driving up food prices which can be addressed by the government.  

According to the AUFA president, the Water and Sewerage Authority should stop charging farmers $5,000 annually for untreated water.

“WASA charges each farmer around $5,000 an acre for water. This is untreated water that farmers have to pump themselves from a river and on to their lands, and the water then goes back into a watercourse. All of this adds to the cost of production and sends prices higher,” he pointed out.

He noted: “The annual problem of flooding in Aranguez South during the rainy season is as a result of the pumps not working, or the workers operating the pump refusing to pump the water. The pump site is often a spot for recreation, cooking and fishing. The minister should look into this.”

Pundit Maharaj said little was done in the past to allocate lands to farmers who pay upwards of $13,000 annually in rent for an acre of land.  He said the process of acquiring state land is riddled with bureaucracy and unfriendly to farmers. He said there are close to 400 farmers who must pay to rent lands.

The UAFA president told Guardian Media, the process to get a Farmer’s Badge or ID was also difficult.

“Farmers in Tobago have an easier process under THA which is less bureaucratic,” he stated.

Pundit Maharaj explained a farmer’s ID would allow farmers to get some level of subsidized inputs.  

He also pointed to the shortage of seeds in T&T, which will make production harder and food even scarcer in the coming months unless addressed. He said the bureaucratic process to import seeds is perhaps one of the most difficult for farmers to navigate.

“You have to know somebody to get seeds,” he alleged.