July 2018

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Agriculture Minister: Time for action on fisheries industry


“As Sir Shridath Ramphal said, it is time to act.”

These were the words of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Minister, Senator Clarence Rambharat. Speaking at the launch of the second Fisheries Value Chain Management Training Workshop on May 22, the Minister spoke of a need for focused, data-driven action to develop the fisheries industry.

“Perhaps our biggest challenge as a region is to get things done,” Minister Rambharat told those gathered at the opening ceremony at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre. “I think a fundamental issue throughout the region is our inability to implement what we say we want to do.”

The three-day fisheries workshop trained participants in the Caribbean fisheries industry in areas such as market analysis, market development, business plan development, value chain development and most importantly, new product development. Special emphasis was placed on processing traditionally unused parts of the fish. This is necessary because of decreasing supply.

“Most of us are fully aware and concerned that our fish stock is depleting,” said Dr Wayne Ganpat, Dean of UWI’s Faculty of Food and Agriculture (FFA). “More and more, fish is going to be an important contributor to our region’s food security. People are increasingly moving towards putting more fish in their diets and we have to respond. And with less access to fish in its primary form, value addition becomes more important.”

The FFA collaborated on the workshop with the Ministry, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), the United Nations University Fisheries Training programme, the Caribbean Fisheries Training and Development Institute, the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) and selected seafood processors from the region.

Speaking on the opportunities of the industry, Elizabeth Mohammed, Director of Fisheries at the Fisheries Division, said: “There exists tremendous potential for development of the seafood sector through increased exports and foreign exchange earnings. This is because there is a high demand for seafood and the world prices are also quite high.”

Dr Ӧgmundur Knútsson, Associate Professor at School of Business and Science at the University of Akureyri in Iceland, who was in Trinidad as a facilitator of the workshop, gave the success story of his own country:

“When Iceland became independent in 1944 it was considered one of the poorest countries in Europe. We realised that our way forward was through the utilisation of our natural resources. Fisheries was one of the main pillars in making Iceland what it is today.”

Iceland ranks as the ninth most developed country in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index.

While saying the fisheries workshop was “well-timed, important and valuable”, Senator Rambharat cautioned against the practise of too much research and too little action. “A lot of studies have been done,” he said, adding: “Our focus should be on striking the balance between research and implementation. We find ourselves with a vast body of material done over a period of decades, but we have no implementation record to show for it.”