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FARMERS ARE WORKING PEOPLE

posted 11 May 2011, 11:45 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 11 May 2011, 11:57 ]

FARMERS ARE WORKING PEOPLE

by Terrance Haywood

The National Foodcrop Farmers Association would like to take this opportunity to address the current  situation of the agricultural sector and in particular the recent coverage of this situation by the nation’s media. We want to reply to headlines such as,“HDC WINS” (Express, may 6, 2011) and “FARMERS LOSE LANDS” (Newsday, Friday, May 6, 2011) We want to state that we disagree with these statements and, if indeed the Farmers do lose, the entire nation loses.

The NFFA has noted the propaganda blitz in all of the print media, particularly “GREEDY FARMERS”(front page Sunday Express May 1st, 2011) and, 4 FARMERS…3,200 HOMELESS” (front page Newsday, Sunday May 1, 2011).

We note all the editorials and the mass anti-farmer letters to the editors, and we wonder who is behind it. This is a concerted attack on farmers just as the bulldozing of crops was a concerted attack on farmers.

We know from the remarks of the Minister of Housing and the Prime Minister that the government intends to stimulate the economy through its housing program. By making it appear that farmers are standing in the way, the PP is pitting Farmers against working people in need of Houses. (It should be noted that many of the farmers ARE “working people in need of houses.”) Farmers are not against housing, they are for agriculture. The nation needs both.

The National  Foodcrop Farmers Association publicly states that we had no affiliation with and were not part of the protest held on Wednesday the 4th of May in which there was misconduct towards the Prime Minister. We deeply regret the behavior of these protesters. However it is unfair to identify all farmers as selfish, land grabbing individuals with hooliganish behavior because of the actions of a few misguided people in a disorganized protest.

We want to know how Mrs. Sookoo can negotiate for farmers when she is being paid by the government and her organization, The Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago, is an agency of the government. Isn’t this a conflict of interest? Is this not what people long time called “Running with the hares and Hunting with the hounds?”

Why were the loudest protestors the very first to sell out? Clearly there was an “About Turn” by Ms. Sookoo and Mr. Khan at the meeting of May 5th. The NFFA suspects that these ‘leaders’ were eating humble pie long before that fateful meeting. When Mr. Prakash Ramadhar came and read the law, the fish bit and the leaders were hooked. The NFFA made it quite clear at the meeting that we obtained legal advice which contradicts Mr. Ramadhar.

At the first meeting held on Thursday April 28 it was agreed that compensation would be paid and just the quantum was left to be worked out. This week Moonilal saying “he not paying if farmers not moving!” NFFA believes that it is time for the farmers to separate the sheep from the goat.

The NFFA represents farmers all over the country on land tenure, land reform issues. There is no one size fits all solution to the land use issues in TnT. We need a land use policy that is comprehensive and developed in consultation with all the stakeholders. This is the policy position of the NFFA and we will never settle for anything less.

In particular, Pineapple Smith lands have been in cultivation (at least) since 1946. These are agricultural lands. Are we saying that our grandparents and parents, who worked very hard to be in agricultural production on lands which have been planted for over a half a century, have no say?

Our dear brother, Norris Deonarine died fighting for land tenure, food security and food sovereignty. His sentiments on food security and land security are now being echoed by the Minister of Agriculture and they remain the pillars of NFFA policy and activity.

The NFFA position is clear and firm:

·         We want a comprehensive National Land Use Policy

·         All arable land presently being farmed should remain in agriculture until the National Physical Development Plan is approved by Parliament

Thank You

Terrance  Haywood, President, NFFA

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