Angry vendors at the San Fernando market yesterday display a petition asking that they be allowed to keep their goods overnight at the facility.

Market vendors are appealing to San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello to allow them to continue to leave their goods at the market overnight.

However, Regrello has rejected their request, saying he has decided to discontinue this practice because the market is infested with cockroaches and rats.

Voicing their concern at the Central Market at Mucurapo Street yesterday, the vendors said it is not feasible for them to transport their goods to and from home every day that they operate at the facility.

Stall owner Visham Mahabir said yesterday that more than 100 vendors are being affected. He said they were previously allowed to leave the goods at the market but last Tuesday the market clerk told them they needed to vacate the premises and remove their goods by 4 pm that day. He said about six of the vendors were unable to remove their goods and they were eventually dumped by the corporation.

“When we came back to the market on Thursday we were notified by the market clerk that we not allowed to leave anything in the market. Every single day after we sell, we have to remove all the items from the market. When we ask the market clerk why we can’t leave it, he said we have to leave it at our own risk.”

Mahabir said yesterday they were told that any goods left in the market will be dumped because they want to sanitise the facility, including the stalls, due to COVID-19. Usually, he said, only the ground would be sprayed daily.

The vendors, however, are proposing that the stalls be cleaned once a month.

“Give us proper notice, remove everything and you all can clean down the place, because as it is now most people in the market, they not able to bring their produce to the market and take it out because they don’t have a vehicle, they don’t have the manpower.”

As a result of the situation, he said only 20 per cent of vendors came out to work yesterday. The vendors say they are preparing to send a petition to the mayor asking him to consider their proposal.

Another stall owner, Emarson Passe, said they were willing to abide by all measures to battle COVID-19 but the latest decision was unfair to vendors.

However, Regrello said the decision was based on a report from the Public Health Department following last Tuesday’s inspection of the market. According to the report, the stalls were infested with German cockroaches and there was an accumulation of disused materials at the stalls (cardboard boxes, styrofoam crates etc) harbouring cockroaches.

“You have cockroaches, rats and rodents running all over the market. Leaving the goods overnight is putting the public at risk and we might have to deal with another kind of health crisis,” Regrello said.

Asked why the decision was only taken now, he admitted that they were “loose” but said the comprehensive cleaning done last week due to COVID-19 exposed the situation and he had to take action based on the report. Regrello said while it was unfortunate the vendors were being inconvenienced, they would have “to find ways to navigate the situation.”