Is there a food crisis caused by a shortage of foreign exchange supplies?
Opposition Senator Wade Mark has concerns, which he took to the Upper House on Tuesday.
But Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said the situation is being managed by the government’s policies on foreign exchange.
Rambharat said he was confident in the strategies for management of foreign exchange, announced by Finance Minister Colm Imbert, and that there would be no food crisis.
Mark raised the matter on the adjournment at the Senate sitting, and asked whether steps were being put in place to ensure that food importation was a priority in foreign exchange allocation.
He said the national currency was now being sold on the black market as high as US $7.50 to TT $1.
The official rate has depreciated from $6.36 to US $6.60 to TT $1 since last September, the Opposition senator said.
As a result of the decreasing value of the national currency, food prices could increase, he stated.
He noted that some supermarket owners have spoken of insufficient supplies of forex and the likely impact on food prices.
Mark said the national foreign exchange reserves had been reduced by US $1.3 billion since last September.
But Rambharat was emphatic that there was “no food crisis”, even though 85 per cent of food items are imported.
He said, though, that the country should seek alternatives to imported fruits and vegetables.
He voiced concern about “the proliferation of middle men”, which, he stated, is impacting food prices.
The Agriculture Minister said the government would introduce measures to “reduce the number of hands through which food passes through, from the farm to the table.”
He stated that shipping companies had not reduced their charges despite lower costs as a result of decreased energy prices.