In Trinidad and Tobago, the citrus industry forms an important component in Government's efforts to diversify the economy. The Ministry of Trade and Industry, in charge of this diversification thrust, said -based on consultation with stakeholders- that it has found that domestic manufacturers of citrus juices and juice drinks utilise a significant percentage of domestic citrus as inputs into their beverages.
But given the high seasonality of local citrus, as well as the price, some manufacturers note that, even after utilising all available local supply, only about 20 per cent of their citrus needs can be sourced locally with the remaining 80 per cent being sourced from foreign markets in order to keep product lines in operation.
This means that there is a significant demand for citrus locally and the industry can be revitalised if some of the supply-side challenges are overcome, including the effects of the citrus greening disease, labour challenges and age of the farming population.
Strengthening the citrus industry
One of the ministerial initiatives is the Grant Fund Facility, which provides up to $250,000 to small and medium-sized export oriented entrepreneurs to acquire machinery and equipment. From its inception, agro-processing, cocoa processors and chocolate manufacturers have accessed funding under the facility. To date, the ministry said, six firms have received disbursements under this fund.
The Research Development Fund provides financial support to enterprises from the non-energy manufacturing and services sector. The fund aims to stimulate and support innovation and investment in new and advanced technology. Beneficiaries are eligible to grants of up to $1 million. This fund is also available to firms in the citrus industry.
The ministry has also partnered with the Agriculture Ministry to help the citrus industry, through the citrus rehabilitation programme. In early 2017, citrus greening disease was discovered in TT, which caused premature defoliation of citrus trees, producing fruit with a bitter taste and ultimately killing citrus tree.