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Felicity farmers cry foul

By LAUREL V WILLIAMS Monday, May 19 2014

OPPOSITION Senator Avinash Singh is demanding that the Ministry of Food Production intervene in a standoff between farmers and the Ministry of Housing as it relates to the Felicity Food Crop Project (FFCP).

Singh, a farmer who contested the Chaguanas West bye-elections for the People’s National Movement last year, said security officers erected “No Trespassers” signs on agricultural lands earmarked for the Felicity farmers by the Ministry of Agriculture for its Felicity Food Crop Project.

The lands consist of 600 acres of land in Felicity and are being farmed by approximately 200 families.

The lands are bounded in the north by Bernard Road, and in the south by the Chaguanas Main Road.

Singh said the FFCP was supported by stakeholders such as the Ministry of Food Production, the Estate Management Business Development as well as the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation.

He said after the closure of Caroni (1975) Limited, the lands were cleared and infrastructure such as drainage was laid down to facilitate the farmers of Felicity.

They grow sweet potatoes, peppers and ochro among other cash crops.

He said on Saturday morning, security officers, believed to be acting on behalf of the Ministry of Housing, came on the lands and began erecting the signs.

“We woke up to find out that a security firm hired by the State erected no-trespassing signs on farmers’ plots.

These are farmers who have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in agricultural development,” he said.

Singh said the agricultural project was being undertaken by the farmers, but the State also looks after the roads and watercourse. He said farmers had secured loans from the Agricultural Development Bank for the project.

“They came as a thief in the night and put signs. It will affect the economics of the area.

“This is the breadbasket of Chaguanas and environs. This project is a model for the rest of the country and this action could result in higher food prices. They left us not knowing what is the next step,” he complained.

He was adamant, however, that the farmers will fight for their rights.

“We will not be derailed in our quest and vision for seeing this nation on its feet.

“UNC supporters, who are not farmers, disrupted the meeting.

“It is the same individuals who placarded Jack Warner’s meeting recently in the area,” he said.

“We will continue to do what we have to do. There is no political agenda when it comes to food because food has no political affiliation.

“I am here for the interest of the agricultural sector,” Singh insisted.

He said the farmers of Felicity intend to join the trade union march on May 23.

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