At the recent Trinidad and Tobago Mango Festival held at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Field Station in Mount Hope, Dr. Mario Fortune, chief technical officer at the Ministry of Food Production, states that although there are challenges in developing the mango industry and by extension food production, Trinidad and Tobago has the potential to develop it into a viable industry.
“The mango industry, like other food markets in T&T, suffers from two main problems. There is an inconsistent supply and inconsistent quality. Why do we rely so heavily on imported food? One issue is that you can get imported fruits in any quantity you need all year round and you are assured of a certain quality. We recognised that some action must be taken to bring our local fruit industry, including mango, to a similar level,” he said.
Fortune was speaking at the opening of the T&T Mango Festival at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Field Station, Mount Hope. He read a speech on behalf of Jairam Seemungal, Minister in the Ministry of State in the Ministry of Food Production, who was unable to attend. To increase fruit production, Fortune said, the Ministry of Food Production will ensure that 202 hectares of mango are cultivated by 2015.
“This should result in a substantial increase in production and is a major pillar in our thrust of producing more food,” he said. Apart from increasing production, the Ministry is also looking for off-season supplies to ensure that markets are satisfied. “We have already begun the search for off-season and regular bearing varieties. Some of these have already been identified and trials will be undertaken to assess their adaptability under our conditions and also, most importantly, consumer acceptance. It makes little sense introducing new varieties only to discover that the consumer does not like them,” he said.
Fortune said the Ministry is also focusing on research and development. Product development in terms of agro-processing, through value addition and promotion of new products, the enhancement of backward and forward linkages, improvement in post-harvest handling, and storage are all areas that we must target in order to ensure the sustainability of the mango industry. Increasing production and selecting varieties for year round supply, therefore would go a long way to alleviate the problem of inconsistent supply,” he said.
Gregg Rawlins of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) said mango is also being commercialised in other parts of the world. “T&T has a potential to fully develop this industry to one that creates high quality products that can meet not only the domestic market requirement but also regional and international markets. T&T does have the production capability,” he said.
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