Trinidad and Tobago - Agriculture

Agriculture experienced a sharp decline during the oil-boom decade of the 1970s, when food imports increased and wage levels in agricultural jobs were low in comparison to other sectors. Sugar remains the main export crop and the main employer, especially during the cane-cutting season. Sugar production reached 227,400 tons in 1965 but fell dramatically to 48,300 tons by 1982. In 1999, 112,100 tons were produced, falling short of the government's target of 130,000. Most production is carried out by the state-owned Caroni Ltd., which has 2 sugar factories, but smaller, independent farmers were responsible for growing 56 percent of cane in 1999. Most sugar exports go to Europe at preferential and guaranteed prices negotiated with the European Union, for which Trinidad and Tobago exports an annual quota of 43,751 tons. In 1998, sugar earned an estimated US$32 million. Despite this guaranteed market access, the sugar industry is highly unprofitable, with the government obliged to subsidize Caroni by $25 million in 1998. There have been repeated calls for the government to sell its sugar operations or to gradually abandon the industry altogether, but this would cause widespread unemployment. Cocoa and coffee have also declined in importance, with only 1,160 tons of cocoa and 343 tons of coffee produced in 1999. Some exotic flowers are exported to the United States, and a wide range of fruits and vegetables are grown for local consumption.

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