The lecturer in weed science and agronomy told Newsday at the closing day of its TechAgri Expo held from March 24 to 26, “Our import is not just only on commodities.
It is also on planting material. We are heavily dependent on importing seed material, even though we produce.
That is where the Government would come in to support our faculty.
Where we do research into developing our own lines. Genetics and breeding are what we need to focus on. If you don’t have seed security, you don’t have food security.
That is one of the things we need to focus on here in TT.” The expo was held at university’s St Augustine Campus on the weekend.
Isaac said the country cutting its food import bill and exporting its agricultural products was feasible but there was a lot that had to be done for this to become a reality.
She noted that the university’s farm all of its planting material was imported from China so it was critical for the university and country to focus on agriculture and government support was needed to do so.
The three-day expo which saw large numbers of citizens and students visiting was the brainchild of the recently appointed dean of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture, Dr Wayne Ganpat.
The objective of the expo, which saw visits from over 200 students on its opening day on Friday, was to popularise Agriculture and make it attractive to the youth.
She said its theme was Innovation, Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship and the expo drew over 86 booths.
The faculty, she added, has an Agricultural Innovation Park recently developed at Orange Grove, opposite Trincity Mall, where a number of vegetables are done.
“The faculty works collaboratively with China’s Agricultural University and in the next ten years we will be developing that area there into an innovation park so we will have greenhouse production and so on,” she said.
Minister of Agriculture, Clarence Rambharat was at its opening along with the UWI St Augustine’s Campus principal, Brian Copeland and they both spoke of the challenges faced by the Agricultural sector. The patrons of the annual event have called for it to be a bi-annual event but the faculty was not sure of its ability to do so.
Many of its patrons were not only interested in the products on display but in the training. Several mini workshops were held during the expo, workshops on topics such as hydroponics, composting, chocolate- making and the identification of pests and diseases.
It drew corporate sponsorship from the Agricultural Development Bank, PCS Nitrogen, Caribbean Chemicals, Bunny’s Imports and the Ministry of Agriculture, lands and Fisheries.
Isaac admitted that she personally felt enough was not being done to grow and encourage people into agriculture but “I now see the Government making some inroads into collaborating with various institutions to try to do so. They are now catching themselves.” She said, “The thing is the cost of production is too high hence the reason we import. But we have quite a number of people who are producing things and we needed to highlight them here and that is the purpose of this. For example, a lot of the public did not know that we make flowers out of different commodities such as sweet potato, yams and dasheens.
Another reason the expo was held, she said, was because the faculty was not getting the necessary funding to repair its labs.