Central farmers no longer have to get up at 3 am to go to Tunapuna or Port-of-Spain to sell their produce. From next week, the farmers will be wholesaling their produce at their own Central Farmers’ Wholesale Market at Woodford Lodge, Chaguanas.
The newly-renovated 22,680 square feet building which once housed the old rice bond at the Woodford Lodge factory will now accommodate about 1,000 farmers from nine large farming areas in central, Agriculture Minister Devant Maharaj said in a feature address at the commissioning of the market yesterday.
Farmers, Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodan, President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce Richie Sokhai and representatives of the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (Namdevco) and others attended the event. Maharaj said the Agriculture Ministry chose to establish T&T’s third wholesale farmers’ market in Central because of the hardship farmers endured going out of the area to sell their produce.
“Finally, your struggle is over,” he told the farmers. The market will be fully functional by next week and will open for two or three days, with a large parking space and onsite security. Maharaj said pack houses for storing food are also to be constructed in six to eight weeks in Brechin Castle and Brickfield in Tabaquite. Other major agricultural infrastructure projects are earmarked for Felicity and different areas in Central, he said.
Maharaj commended Namdevco for the good job it has been doing in agriculture, noting the entity was starved for funds and emasculated under previous administrations. He said $1/4 billion was pumped into an organisation called the Trinidad Agri-Business Association and nothing has been shown for this. The minister said because of Namdevco’s introduction of local produce in the national school feeding programme, farmers have been able to double or triple local food input over the last four years.
Last month, Namdevco launched a cassava muffin in the programme and Irish potatoes are being replaced with green paw paw. Maharaj said Central Bank statistics show the agricultural sector, for the first time in 40 years, saw five consecutive quarters of growth from 2012 to 2013. For the first time in 21 years inflation also remained in single digits for the first six months of 2013.
Asked by the T&T Guardian about the law mandating farmers to get a license to draw water for their crops from rivers and streams, he said that was a legal matter under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources. Maharaj said he will not encourage anyone to break the law and said the Environment Ministry is seeking to conserve water. Sookhai, in his address, said it was an exciting day for Chaguanas, as the old rice bond at Woodford Lodge will no longer be a dinosaur but an economic hub.
He said when Caroni Ltd was shut down in 2003 everyone thought Chaguanas would have dried up. “Out of the ashes of Caroni Ltd grew Chaguanas,” he said.