Consumers trickle into the Scarborough Market, Tobago, around 9:30 am on Thursday. (Image: VINDRA GOPAUL)

Disgruntled vendors operating out of the Scarborough Market in Tobago, say policy decisions by the market administration are preventing them from earning a living. 

Speaking with Guardian Media, market vendor Lydia Joseph said between 6 and 9 am, only one person at a time was allowed into the facility.

“There was nobody in the market because all the market gates were locked, up to nine, ten o’clock,” she said.  “They were letting people in one at a time, the busiest day of the year.”

She said people were lining up outside the market to get in, and customers got frustrated and left.

Joseph said when she called other vendors to look at the process, the security threatened to throw her out of the market.

“I called two other vendors to take a look at the gates.  All the gates were locked, people were lined up to enter the market and I was told that if I do that again, I would be thrown out of the market,” she said.  “I have the right to exercise my rights to show other vendors why there was nobody in the market.”

Market vendor Lydia Joseph speaks with Guardian Media on Thursday outside the Scarborough Market. (Image: VINDRA GOPAUL)

Joseph said she went to the markets at Tunapuna and Macoya in Trinidad on Wednesday:

“People were climbing up on each other.  They keep locking down the market, they say it’s because of COVID.  My question is, how much of the security guards have taken their vaccines?”

She said vendors have to compete with grocery stores and wholesalers who trade at retail prices.  Noting that the market has around 200 vendors, she said, “there is nobody to sell to.”

Nathisha Pantin-Charles, Secretary for Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development on the Tobago House of Assembly, told Guardian Media that she would investigate the vendor’s claims immediately.

Secretary Pantin-Charles said the opening hours at the market had been extended from 6 am to 6 pm, so both consumers and vendors could benefit.

Alezmoy Mc Kenzie, Corp Communication Officer at the Division for Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development explained that measures were put in place on Thursday morning because of a large influx of consumers. Mc Kenzie said all of this was done in a bid to control the spread of COVID. She said once the crowd dissipated the situation returned to normal.

Mc Kenzie also noted the opening hours at the market would be extended from 6 am to 8 pm on Christmas Eve, and from 6 am to 2 pm on Christmas day.