The Agriculture Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ASTT) has distanced itself from statements made by its director, Safraz Ali, during a protest at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain yesterday.
Ali, alongside Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram and United National Congress activist Marsha Walker and a group of farmers, staged a protest outside the Agri Investment Forum and Expo at the National Academy of the Performing Arts.
During the action, Ali condemned the Government for hosting the expo while not dealing with the issues local farmers have been having for years.
In a statement hours after the protest, however, Agriculture Society vice president Devika Sookhoo said, “The ASTT distances itself from the illiterate statements made by Mr Safraz AIi. Whilst he is a member of the committee of management of the ASTT, he has no permission to make any statements on the ASTT’s behalf.”
She added, “Contrary to what was said, the ASTT is in full support of the Agri Expo and is a willing participant and proponent at the expo and the president of the ASTT wishes to congratulate the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government for this outstanding event.”
Police outside the venue questioned whether the protesting farmers had permission to protest, leading to officers only allowing them to protest on one stretch of pavement.
Speaking to Guardian Media during the protest, Ali condemned the Government for having the Expo and not treating with the issues of farmers in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Farmers have been disrespected for far too long in this country. We put food on the tables for many families and the Government is stacking the odds against us, especially with the price of fertiliser, as it has tripled in the last six months,” Ali said.
He added, “We paid 8 million dollars to pappy show regional leaders at an event inside there and to stroll around leaders of Caricom when nothing is happening in Trinidad and Tobago.”
The farmers raised issues of flooding and also the slow pace of leases for ex-Caroni workers.
Couva North MP Ratiram told Guardian Media, “I piloted a bill in the Parliament on the food security crisis facing the nation and if we don’t wake up as a country and deal with the issue of food security, we have seen the contribution to GDP consistently decline under this Government from 1.4 billion dollars to 1.28 billion, we have seen hundreds of millions of dollars decline in the contribution of GDP in this country and if that continues, what is going to happen is sooner or later, we will start starving.”
He said many families cannot eat in the country, as the price of basic food supplies is soaring.