Like most people, I have seen the rising prices of food in T&T and around the world, only, being in business, I decided to capitalise on this trend. After lots of research, talks with potential buyers and consultations with foreign producers, I decided to start an orchard. Our aim was simple—produce 20 tonnes of one fruit of high quality, extract pulp for sale and sell by-products to the beauty industry, sounds simple enough, right?
Wrong. Anywhere else, this would have been a simple plan. I went to the Centeno farm to place an order for 2,000 trees with a lead time of 18 months. To me, this sounded realistic, after all, this is the sole function of the farms, to produce high-quality, grafted plants for the agricultural sector. Well, wrong again. Centeno farm’s management is claiming that they cannot do an order of that size, mind you, even though they have three locations and over 100 staff. They did take my information and promised to reach out to me, but that was over 14 months ago and nothing to date.
I then reached out to a Trini YouTuber making tutorial videos on grafting fruit trees, and guess what, he did it. Eighteen months later, I am now the proud owner of 2,000 grafted fruit trees. He and a team of one. Two persons in total did what a fully staffed farm, funded by the Government, could not do. Anyway, niceness, trees getting ready for the ground, the tractor just arrived after a lead time of nine months due to farming equipment shortages around the world because of the Russia/Ukraine situation and shipping nightmares.
Six months before planting, things finally looked up, but as our PM predicted, rough times ahead. I went to the ADB (Agricultural Development Bank) to finance the land, 15 acres of fertile, beautiful, flat land. ADB said that things are looking good, but—and always is a but—I need a certificate of environmental clearance from the EMA (Environmental Management Authority) as bushes have regrown on the land since last cultivated (by the previous owner). Small thing, don’t worry yuhself. Eh, heh? well, I had to engage a consultant to liaise with Land and Surveys, topographical drawings, public consultations with neighbours, chemicals used, source of water used on the farm, drainage, storm water, etc.
All in all, the people doing their work, I can’t vex. At least it is over. Nope. EMA responded they want me to submit a proposal before I can touch the bush for tests to be done for three months in the rainy season and three months in the dry season to count monkeys and ocelots during the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Now, tell me what to do? I buy tractor and truck, do courses, study, pay consultants, make downpayment on land, pay valuations, do legal searches, maintain a roadway, order my fruit trees, and now have to stop the project to count monkey and ocelot for almost a year on land that is approved/zoned by Town and Country for farming, in the land that has been farmed for decades before.
I have to plant in June 2023 or I’m doomed, and we wonder why no one wants to invest in T&T. We wonder why food prices are high, we wonder what is wrong. I’ll keep two trees to plant at hom,e but have 1,998 trees to sell. To the staff at the EMA, please enjoy the food prices.
frustrated potential farmer