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THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis, left, talks with Tobago Agricultural Society assistant secretary Darren Joseph (partly hidden), vice president Charles Adams, treasurer Jamlyn Tobias-Frank and president Dedan Daniel during in an impromptu meeting visit to JMG Farm at Arnos Vale Road, Plymouth, earlier this year.

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Tobago farmers say the management of the various arms of the agricultural sector should be placed under their control to increase efficiency.

Speaking exclusively with Tobago Today, president of the Tobago Agricultural Society Dedan Daniel said he was pleased to announce that based on “anecdotal evidence,” agricultural production by both full-time farmers and home gardeners had increased on the island and there is an increased demand for local produce.

“We have had an arrangement with the marketing division to provide produce to those in need through NAMDEVCO (National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation) which has been buying produce from our farmers,” Daniel said.

According to Daniel, farmers are also grateful that the Division of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries’ Department of Food Production has reintroduced the agricultural incentive programme.

However, he said there are still challenges with “bureaucracy and timeliness” in the handling of farmers’ issues. He claims that farmers also have difficulty accessing heavy equipment to prepare lands for planting.

“Tractor Pool services are not as readily available as we would like them to be. Farmers have the experience of a long lag time between requesting the service, paying for it, and actually getting it.”

He said the Tobago Agricultural Society believes that the Tractor Pool Services should be privatised and placed under its management, as farmers would be in a better position to run the service in a way that is more “farmer-friendly.”

He said the society is also closely monitoring the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) recent plan to put a new Land Management Committee in place to make more state lands accessible to farmers for agricultural production. According to Daniel, another area that requires immediate attention is the THA-owned and operated packing house to store agricultural products.

“Entities like that should be placed under the management of the Tobago Agricultural Society so that we could make it more farmer-friendly because we are in touch with our member farmers and we have plans in place for the management of that facility,” he said. Daniel also proposed that the marketing of farmers’ produce be managed by his organisation. “This move would…allow farmers to focus on their core competency, which is farming, and not having to divide themselves into various parts to…plant and market their products.”

He said all of these goal could be made possible with an increased subvention to the farmers’ organisation.

THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis was contacted on the society’s issues and proposals for the management of agriculture on the island.

Dennis, who has toured several farms and agricultural operations since taking over the helm of the THA, admitted that there are inefficiencies in the Assembly’s operations, including the Tractor Pool setup.

“Tractor Pool is woefully inefficient and I recently issued instructions to the secretary of that division to fix it within two months. I await his recommendations by the end of September,” Dennis said.

The division is headed by Hayden Spencer.

Dennis said he would closely look at the proposals being put forward by the Tobago Agricultural Society before determining their feasibility.