Faced with rampant wastage of produce, the government has provided free cold storage facilities to Mayaro farmers as well as links to potential buyers.
However, while some farmers have been fortunate enough to get most of their cantaloupes and melons sold, some unregistered farmers were still struggling to get their produce to the market.
When Guardian Media visited the area on Thursday, bags of melons were still being dumped. Other farmers like Jessie Rampersad had no choice but to offer vanloads of melons to a farmer to feed his cows.
During an interview, Rampersad said he started to pick melons on Wednesday and he still had hundreds more to reap.
“We have two fields, one is five acres and the other is six acres. Since this morning we waiting for buyers. All we selling is one or two melons,” he said.
Unlike other farmers, Rampersad said he was not registered with the National Agriculture Marketing Development Corporation even though he was a registered farmer.
He said some buyers have offered him $1 per pound for prime melons but this price was too little to cover his expenses.
His wife Hansee Rampersad explained that they have been renting land to plant the melons and they still had to pay $2,000 per acre in crop sharing after the melons are sold.
“This is why it’s very hard for us to sell under $2 per pound wholesale. Normally we get $3 per pound,” she said.
She called on Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat to organise a place for them to sell.
“We do not have a space to sell at the Macoya market. I think they should set up a farmers market at a point and invite people to come and buy. If this cannot work, they should arrange for us to export our melons,” she said.
Asked whether they would consider placing their goods in cold storage, Hansee said this will not work for melons.
Another farmer Mungroo Gosine said when melons are ripe and refrigerated it goes bad once it is taken out. He said they had about 50,000 pounds of melon for sale and they were selling at $150 to $3 per pound.
Another farmer Omatie Gajraj- Rampersad said while they were thankful some people got their melons sold, they were still concerned about theft and spoilage at the cold storage facilities.
Gajraj-Rampersad said all goods should be insured so farmers could be adequately compensated if their goods are stolen.
Another farmer Krishen Isaac said he was concerned about the wastage of the crop. Isaac said this morning he gave a load of watermelons to a cattle farmer as feedstock.
Contacted for comment, Minister Rambharat said Namdevco has been working with the farmers.
“The immediate thing we are working on is to get the Kernahan, Plum Mitan and Cascadoux farmers is to bring their produce to the busy farmers’ markets at Queen’s Park and Chaguanas.”
He noted that refrigerated storage space is available at the Mayaro Sporting Complex.
Saying Namdevco was offering sales support to the farmers, Rambharat said farmers need not be concerned about spoilage as the temperature in the storage chillers is set at the appropriate temperature for the specific produce.
Meanwhile, chief executive officer of Namdevco Nirmalla Debysingh-Persad also offered help to all farmers who still had problems to sell their produce.
She said two 40 feet containers each with a capacity of 55,000 pounds have been made available to the farmers to store their produce at Mayaro.
She said storage will be temporary and Namdevco will work assiduou1sly to find buyers for the produce. She also said more than 75 farmers from Cascadoux, Kernahan, Boyce Road and Plum Mitan have received an offer for assistance.
“The produce is being placed in low temperature and we are actively assisting by communicating with potential buyers in the private sector, wholesale buyers and institutional buyers so that farmers will get a fair price for their goods,” Debysingh-Persad said.
She explained that Namdevco is very concerned about food safety and wanted all farmers to ensure that goods were kept at appropriate temperatures.
“We have made the Piarco Packing House available for minimal processing of products that needs to go for storage and ensure the safety of produce throughout the value chain from the farmer to the consumer,” she added.
She noted that processing produce extends shelf life.
She also said that any farmer who requires transportation for their produce to go to the storage facilities can contact Namdevco at 647-3218. Those who need to be registered can contact the same number and ask for the quality assurance department.
She added daily spots are available for farmers at the Macoya market and some farmers can even request a pre-paid spot.
Those requesting market spots to sell their produce can contact 645-9073.