|Cane Producers and Ministry sign MOU |
By Sasha Harrinanan Tuesday, December 18 2012
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SIGN HERE: Minister of Food Production, Devant Maharaj, right, shows Seukleran Tambie, president of the Cane Producers Association, where to sign on t...
The Cane Producers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (CPA) and the Ministry of Food Production yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Under the terms of the agreement. the ministry will provide $1 million from European Union (EU) funds; given to the TT Government for use in post-sugar cane diversification efforts, to help the CPA establish a Cane Producers Secretariat.
CPA General Secretary Seukeran Tambie said the Secretariat, to be comprised mainly of CPA members, would have six months to complete research into the socio-economic needs of 6,000 former cane farmers, and 3,000 cane cutters.
Tambie noted that unlike former employees of State-owned Caroni 1975 Limited, which closed in 2003, cane farmers and cutters never got their promised “proper exit strategy”.
Hence the CPA’s decision “to take up the struggle” to ensure Government used some of the 30 million Euros it has received to date on projects with direct impact on these 9,000 persons. While the Secretariat will choose projects based on feedback and research, Tambie said there are plans to establish an Economic Zone between Hindustan and Penal in south Trinidad.
Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj noted the EU still had an estimated 30 million Euros left to pay out, in tranches, to Government.
“Under this administration, cane farmers and cane cutters will benefit directly from those funds.
“The Economic Zone the secretariat wants to set up would include agri-businesses and agri-processing plants, which would dovetail nicely into the ministry’s objectives of reducing the food import bill by growing more food locally,” Maharaj stated.
The MOU also provides for a fully furnished office for the secretariat at one of the buildings still owned by Caroni 1975 Limited.
In 2005 the EU eliminated its Sugar Protocol as part of its Sugar Reform Process for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
To help mitigate the negative impacts of this in ACP countries, the EU offered technical and financial assistance.
Tambie said it was an “historic” day yesterday because the CPA had finally gotten direct financial assistance to pursue its goals for helping former cane farmers and cutters transition into new careers.