President of the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago, Dhano Sookoo, says farmers finally feel like the Government is getting its priorities right.
She said the renewed focus that has been placed on the agricultural sector and the nation's food security has come at a necessary time, since shortages of food had become a major issue all over the world.
However, Sookoo, like many other leaders in various sectors of the society, is calling on the Government to think carefully about the proposed property tax adjustments announced in the national budget, which was read on September 7.
Sookoo was addressing hundreds of local farmers at the National Agricultural Forum 2009 yesterday. The event was held at the Macoya Wholesale Farmers' Market in Macoya, Tunapuna. Various farming issues, advents, achievements and the next step which local farmers will take to become more commercially viable were all up for discussion.
While Sookoo said the citizenry is still feeling the burdens of decades of agricultural neglect by policy makers, she said "farmers are no longer the forgotten part of society".
She maintained, however, that with the high level of development needed for this country's agricultural sector to get up to scratch, it would not be economically sound for the Government to dole out significant property tax increases on agricultural lands.
"We must pay cognizance to the fact that the agricultural sector is not developed and cannot be burdened with further taxation," Sookoo said.
Sookoo said she and her committee at the Agricultural Society were now focused on ensuring the promises made for agriculture in the 2009/2010 Budget are fulfilled.
She warned that the time for talk in relation to agricultural development in this country was over, and that farmers were beginning to recognise the tremendous power they held in their hands and how important their contribution is to national development and sustainability.
The president said it was now time for both policy makers and local farmers to grab "the bull by the horns" and help "reposition Trinidad and Tobago as the food basket of the Caribbean".
She also renewed the call for the development of a National Agricultural Council.
Farmers from all over the country, including Valencia, Cedros, Plum Mitan, Balata, Maracas, Paramin and Malgretoute, all gathered to share their concerns at yesterday's event.