Ravi Ratiram

Opposition MP Ravi Ratiram is calling on NAMDEVCO (The National Agriculture Marketing and Development Corporation) to pay outstanding money owed to farmers for their goods. Ratiram says he has been in contact with several farmers who provided produce for the government’s food hamper drive who say NAMDEVCO is in breach of its usual arrangement for payment within 21 days. The following is a press release from the Opposition MP:

As the Opposition MP with the shadow portfolio for the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, it has been brought to my attention that for more than two (2) months now, NAMDEVCO has been owing farmers for goods collected for use in the Government’s Food Hamper Distribution Programme.

Under this initiative, NAMDEVCO – a wholly-owned State Enterprise under the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries is the executing agency responsible for providing 600 food hampers each month for the most needy families in each Constituency through Members of Parliament Constituency Offices. The scope of the programme has since been expanded to include NGO’s and Local Government Councillors as distribution partners.

Since the announcement of this initiative in May this year, our nation’s farmers have ramped up production to meet the increased demands by NAMDEVCO. However, I have been contacted by farmers from several parts of the country, amongst them, farmers from Jerningham, Princes Town, Bon Aventure, Penal, Barrackpore, Moruga, Siparia and Cedros, who have all complained that NAMDEVCO is in breach of its usual arrangement for payment within 21 days, owing for goods sold since May.

The procedure is that when farmers go to NAMDEVCO with their produce, after inspection, the goods are weighed and a Bill of Sale is presented to the farmers, which is a promissory note for payment, made within 21 days by cheque. This has not been the case and in the meantime, farmers have been facing mounting overheads associated with production. Two of these major costs are wages for labour and fuel for vehicles and machinery, that have to be paid in cash. Even when farmers do receive payment, they have to wait the mandatory four to five working days for cheques to clear before funds can be accessed.

Farmers have expressed their lack of faith in the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Clarence Rambharat who they say has turned a permanent deaf ear to the many problems they face, including their present predicament. As such, instead of signaling their woes to a non-functioning Minister, they opted to alert me to their plight as the Opposition’s shadow Minister of Agriculture.

It is most unfortunate to see such blatant disrespect and disregard being paid to our farmers from across the country; an issue that has been persistent for the past six (6) years under this uncaring Rowley-led PNM.

As such, I issue this clarion call to NAMDEVCO to stop advantaging our nation’s farmers whom we depend on for Trinidad and Tobago’s food security.

Pay them their just dues on time and without further delay!