In T&T: Farmers want audit of agricultural body

8 June 2012

Will this Corpus Christi wish be fulfilled? Farmers seek $1.2bn worth of answers from Gov’t.

FARMERS are asking Minister of Food Production Vasant Bharath to launch an immediate audit into $1.2 billion in expenditure by the Estate Management Business Development Company (EMBDC) over a six-month period.

Co-ordinator of the Trinidad United Farmers’ Association (TUFA) Shiraz Khan yesterday said this information was disclosed by the EMBDC on April 20, during a private meeting of all State Boards under the purview of the Ministry of Food Production.

“We are calling for an immediate audit into how and where the EMBDC really spent all that money. I couldn’t believe it when I heard the figure, $1.2 billion. I had to double check with someone else who was at Cascadia Hotel that day and they too heard ‘billion’ not ‘million’. Which farmer/s benefitted from that money and how?” Khan said.

According to Khan, during the private meeting, an EMBDC official said the money had been spent during a six-month period — reportedly between October 2011 and March 2012. The TUFA Co-ordinator yesterday said he had yet to see any significant developments as a result of this large spend.

“If the EMBDC really spent all that money, we should be seeing a lot more local crops in the market. There should be a drop in food inflation, there should be significant progress on farming projects and development of infrastructure on agricultural lands,” Khan declared.

He was speaking with Newsday yesterday afternoon, following a Corpus Christi thanksgiving service and symbolic planting exercise at Pineapple Smith Lands in Mausica, D’Abadie — the area where farm land under cultivation was bulldozed on Easter Monday last year.

Khan explained that since yesterday was Corpus Christi, a religious holiday, farmers chose that day to come together to “perform an act of good.”

“Last year Easter, the authorities committed an act of evil on a religious day, bulldozing crops that were ready to harvest. So this year, we committed an act of good on a religious day, planting corn, peas, tomatoes, bodi, melongene and petite tambo,” Khan said.


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