Already facing shorter market hours and fewer customers because of COVID-19, farmers of Princes Town are now facing another setback.
Since the government banned social gatherings and imposed social distancing, thieves have been wreaking havoc in the undulating agricultural fields of Second Corial Road, stealing crops, equipment, fertilizers and other items in the dead of night.
During an interview with Guardian Media, farmer Steve Heeralal said he was fed up of the ongoing larceny.
“It seems COVID-19 give them thief a boost because they going in people garden and stealing anything they could find,” Heeralal said.
He added, “I cannot go in the market and sell now and I cannot even get a food card because they saying that I am a farmer and I have an income. And when I complain about the thieves, they come and burn down my camp.”
Another farmer Ramsumair Hanuman said the thieves have chopped down his caimit tree to get access to the fruit on the upper branches.
He called on the government to give more resources to the Predial Larceny Squad so they could protect farmers.
“Since last year November people losing stuff from their fields and now it is worse since the COVID-19. They are thieving any and everything and whenever we complain they come and mash-up our irrigation lines and our camps. They have even burnt down some camps,” Hanuman added.
Another farmer Dale Samaroo who cultivates fields of melon and cantaloupe said he too was fed up of his losses.
“The bandits are coming in the early hours of the morning or late at night and stealing our crops, equipment, pimentos, tomatoes, pumpkin. We do not have officers patrolling in this area and we need some kind of redress,” Samaroo added.
Farmers say some of the street lights at Corial were not functioning.
“If we can get them to fix the street lights, we will be in a better position,” farmer Jairam Mungroo said.
Contacted for comment, Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat said he was not aware of the issues facing the Corial farmers.
“The farmers need to ensure that reports are made to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and to the Ministry’s Praedial Larceny Squad,” he said.
On Sunday, chairman of the Princes Town Regional Corporation imposed new restrictions at the Princes Town market reducing opening hours from 6 am to 2 pm. He also said the market will be closed on Sundays. Some farmers have since set up roadside stalls along the M2- Ring Road and the M1 Ring Road to get their produce off their hands.