Farmers protest lack of action from Government
Promises, promises and more promises. This is what angry farmers said they been receiving over the years from the Government. Various farming associations falling under the umbrella of the National Food Crop Farmers Association (NFFA) protested yesterday at the Norris Deonarine Wholesale Market, Macoya. At the protest, they held placards, banners and threw pumpkins and vegetables.
The farmers said over the past few years they had to deal with low food costs, flooding, thieves, unfair prices for goods and a lack of accommodation at the market. Public relations officer Barath Rampersad called for intervention not only from the Government but from anyone who could assist. He is seeking the Government’s assistance to also subsidise products, such as fertilisers, insecticides and labour. “We are here to highlight all the ills the farmers in T&T are suffering as food crop farmers.
“The minister said he wanted to bring cheap food to the country. The cost of produce has gone up and we are selling at the same price,” he said. Rampersad said farmers have to pay bills like anyone else but their sale prices have not increased since 1970. “We are selling under cost, and we are not being taken seriously and we are fed up. We are barely surviving and a farmer has to sell his wagon to make payments on the ADB (Agricultural Development Bank) loan,” he added.
Foreign food which was brought into the market was also being kept under a cool shed while the farmers are baking in the hot sun, he said. “This is the farmer’s market. We want to be a First World country; you must feed yourself first and don’t depend on nobody. Oil and gas will run out. They need to invest in agriculture,” he added. Rampersad said several of the farmers were also to supply pommecythere and supplied 15,000 pounds but were turned away.
“They only accepted 3,000 pounds and said we are supposed to take back the rest. What the farmer must do with that extra produce on their hands?” he asked. Rampersad said the Government invested millions of dollars to lower food prices on the Caroni Green Initiative but farmers were producing the same food that was being grown. “So, they are destroying the food farmers.”
Another problem, he added, was waiting for a year to be compensated when crops were destroyed by flood waters. Secretary of the Bon Air Farmers Association and secretary of the NFFA Seeta Mohammed said their farmers have problems with road conditions, lack of water, no leasing on their properties and thieves.