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Heavenly Bliss owner Akeila Dalrymple chats with a customer about alternative flour products at the Namdevco Farmers Market, held at Endeavour Road, Chaguanas, on July 9. - ROGER JACOB
Heavenly Bliss owner Akeila Dalrymple chats with a customer about alternative flour products at the Namdevco Farmers Market, held at Endeavour Road, Chaguanas, on July 9. – ROGER JACOB

GOVERNMENT has extended support to local producers of alternatives to wheat flour, in response to escalating global wheat prices.

In a statement on Friday, Trade and Industry Ministry Paula Gopee-Scoon said the purpose of this initiative is to encourage domestic production of alternatives to wheat flour.

“Accordingly, funding under the Grant Fund Facility will now be made available for 75 per cent, up to maximum of $340,000.00 (approximately US$50,000.00) of the cost of new machinery and equipment being acquired to manufacture alternatives to wheat flour.”

Gopee-Scoon said, “The Government remains committed to ensuring all avenues are explored in minimising the impact of rising food prices, which is outside of Trinidad and Tobago’s control and symptomatic of the ongoing global food crisis among a myriad of other factors.

“Notwithstanding the announcement by main local wheat flour producers that the price increase on the domestic market is temporary, the situation presents an opportunity for all producers of alternatives to wheat flour.”

The ministry anticipates that grant funding will create opportunities for new producers of flour using alternative sources, particularly locally-sourced root crops, as well as bring about an increase in the overall production of alternatives to wheat flour.

These include coconut, sweet potato, dasheen, cassava, breadfruit, plantain and pigeon peas flour, and other non-locally sourced options such as, oat flour and cornmeal/corn flour.

The initiative complements the current efforts of the National Marketing Development Corporation (Namdevco), which continues to encourage the public to use root-crop flour as an alternative to wheat flour.

Namdevco said, “Monitoring records indicate consistent quarterly productions of 1.15 million kgs of sweet potato and 1.07 million kgs of cassava which can readily be converted into root-crop flour.”

This data shows that farmers continue to successfully produce a wide range of root crops despite external factors that can affect production, inclusive of climate change.

The ministry said, “Although wheat flour alternatives may not be cheaper than wheat flour in the short-term, it is expected that the concomitant increase in the supply of root-crop alternatives will result in overall lower prices to consumers.

In addition to contributing to food security, exploring alternatives to wheat/white flour provides an opportunity to promote and improve the nutritional status of the population.

The Trade and Industry Ministry said it is working with the Health Ministry to “continually expound and emphasise on initiatives which can contribute to a healthier nation.”