As the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) continues its weekly sale of thousands of eggs to consumers at $7 per dozen, some Tobago businesses have questioned why the assembly is undercutting the private sector.
The THA said it would review the situation.
Some customers, who make the sale part of their weekly routine, said they are concerned that some customers were not listening to the guard’s instructions and following the strict COVID-19 protocols.
People who visit the sale almost weekly say they are happy with the deal. They began gathering from as early as 4 am yesterday at the THA-operated farm at Hope Village to get between two- to-three dozens of eggs at $7 per dozen.
Anisha McFarlane, a pensioner, of Bon Accord, said when she joined the line at 4.45 am there were already 120 names on the list.
McFarlane, a first-time customer, said she decided to make the trip as she kept hearing about it.
When Guardian Media arrived at the farm at 8.15, she was still in line. She left with her sister just before 10 am, both were satisfied with their purchase of four dozen eggs for $28.00.
Another pensioner, Edgeton Campbell, of Mt St George, said he arrived at 6.30 am to purchase eggs for his grandchildren. He was number 188.
There was a system in place to buy the eggs. Customers registered their names, washed their hands at the gate, re-registered at the guard booth, giving their telephone numbers in case they needed tracing for COVID-19.
However, some people crowded the farm’s entrance. Many were neither socially distanced nor wore masks properly. This despite many pleadings from the guard at the gate.
The owner of Tobago’s largest egg farm Lawrence McConney said he had no issue with consumers getting the eggs at $7 per dozen.
He said he is concerned about how he would maintain the farm, continue paying workers and pay taxes. Asked if he felt the THA was unfairly competing with farmers, he declined to answer.
He replied, “You ask the THA how they can feed the animals, pay workers and sustain their farms, yet sell eggs at $7 per dozen. McConney wholesales his eggs at $20 per dozen.”
Smaller egg farmers said they are not willing to discuss the issue publicly as they fear victimisation. Many have contracts for agricultural or farm produce with the THA.
Guardian Media approached Chief Secretary and Secretary for Agriculture Ancil Dennis for answers.
He said, “The operations at Hope Farm are under review. The sale of eggs will not be part of its mandate going forward.”