Vegetable Prices Rise (article)

Citizen journalist photos from the Trinidad floods on November 18, 2008. For more, visit Photo by Trinidad News on Flickr

The following article appeared in Trinidad’s Newsday Newspaper last month. As I have written previously the rising cost of food prices has hit us hard here. It’s not uncommon to see the price of a product rise every 7 days on some items. It’s almost criminal. Who is to blame? The suppliers? The distributors? The supermarkets themselves? And should the government help to offset these fluctuations? These are all questions that are hotly debated in the media, and on the street. Heavy rains last month caused intense flash flooding throughout the island. To say that it was a dire call to the populace on our woefully inadequate infrastructure would be an understatement. But perhaps more alarming is the news that those floods will affect the prices we’ll have to pay for weeks to come on even the most basic vegetables.

Again, as I stated here, a new approach towards agriculture and farmers is urgently needed in this country. Whether it be through such ‘radical’ notions as community and/or urban farming, or something mandated from ‘those on high’ we need to have more respect for the land, and those who have chosen the often thankless and precarious job of harvesting it. Unfortunately, comments such as those made last month by the Minister of Agriculture (and yes the tragic irony of that has been lost on no one) and the demonstrations that subsequently followed show that this is a saga that is far from over…

Vegetable prices rise


Tuesday, November 25 2008

LAST week’s heavy showers not only flooded the capital but also damaged, and in some cases destroyed, fields of food crops leading to a rise in the price of several popular vegetables.

A trip to several markets yesterday showed that tomatoes are priced between $10 and $13 a pound, cassava is $2 a pound, up from $1.50 a pound, while sweet peppers are priced at $10 a pound, an increase of three dollars from the previous price.

Wholesale, the price for hot peppers increased by $50 to settle at $400 a bag and cucumbers are selling at $350 a bag, up from $275.

A farmer out of Paramin, who did not want to be named, said she had to destroy her tomato crop and begin replanting after heavy rains ruined the November crop. She added the high cost of fertilisers also added to her distress.

“After spending $5,000 on that crop, the rains came and ruined it. We have to start anew and spend a further six to seven thousand dollars on the next crop.

And then we are blamed by government for high food prices. The situation is unfair to farmers,” she complained.

Sahadeo Babwah, another farmer whose field is located in Aranjuez, blamed the high price of tomatoes on low production.

With most crops being destroyed by heavy rains and flooding, he explained, farmers’ stocks are low or have been depleted.

“I am now planting a new crop of tomatoes but this will be ready in nine weeks,” he said.

Terry Bahal, a farmer in Caparo is predicting even higher prices as the Christmas season rapidly gets into full swing.

“People will feel the effect of the recent floods in about two to three weeks time when Christmas produce is expected to hit the markets.

There will be a shortage because of the floods,” he predicted.

Bahal, who said he is one of the largest grown cassava farmers said this crop would be particularly scarce since the access road to his crops has been impassable since the recent heavy rains.

“I have no access to my crops because the condition of the dirt road leading to it is deplorable.

The road has deteriorated because of the rains but mainly because of a lack of maintenance,” he lamented.

The rise in the prices of vegetables would come as bad news to consumers after the price of rice and poultry was reduced last week.