The sharp increases food crop prices since last month's floods are the simple effect of supply and demand, says CEO of the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (Namdevco), Nirmalla Debysingh-Persad.
"There is less produce available for sale, so the prices have gone up,” she explained.
Data from Namdevco shows that prices for condiments and spices such as hot peppers and pimentos have increased by as much as 25 cents each. The price of cabbages has increased by $3 per kilogramme wholesale and $6 per kilogramme retail, while other vegetables, such as cucumber, melongene, pumpkin, sweet pepper and tomatoes, have doubled in price.
Fruits such as papaya, watermelon and pineapple have also shown increases.
Debysingh-Persad said she expects that once the farms are able to recover from the floods and resume normal operations, prices will level off once again.
She said since the severe flooding that affected areas of Trinidad over the period October 19 – 21 October, Namdevco officials have increased their interactions with and support of farmers across the country.
Assessments to determine the extent of the damage and areas most severely affected showed that farms in Caroni, St. Andrew, Nariva/Mayaro, and St. Andrew/St. David were hardest hit with 45 per cent to 95 per cent of acreage affected. Farms in St. George Central and Victoria East. Victoria North and St. Patrick were the least affected.
In the most severely affected areas, more than 60 per cent and as much as 100 per cent losses were experienced. There were huge losses of celery, followed by cauliflower, caraille, watermelon, sweet pepper and cucumber. the least affected crops were citrus, lettuce and cassava.
Debysingh-Persad said Namdevco officials are in constant contact with the affected farmers, providing technical support and advice, as well as safer pesticides, fungicides, etc., to help prevent pest infestations and the spread of infectious diseases following the flooding. They have provided the farmers with distribution crates to help bring unaffected produce to market and are making efforts to ensure that no tainted or flood-damaged goods are being offered for human consumption.
In the week after the event, rental fees were waived at the Norris Deonarine Northern Wholesale Market at Macoya.
“We wanted to do something to help them get back on their feet financially,” Debysingh-Persad explained.
She said while Namdevco is stringently monitoring the quality of produce being offered for wholesale and retail, to prevent damaged or unsuitable produce being sold to consumers, householders need to be vigilant and take their own steps to ensure what they serve their families is fresh, healthy, and fit for human consumption.
“Examine produce carefully for signs of silt, contamination or decay. Produce with a tough skin, such as squash, watermelon, or melongene, are more resistant to contamination, but look for cracks or breaks in the skin where water might have entered. Fruit or vegetables that can be peeled or cooked, such as peas and potatoes, are safer than soft fruit or leafy vegetables," she advised.
"Carefully wash all fruit and vegetables, including ground provisions, before using.”
Debysingh-Persad also recommended that consumers wash produce in a weak solution of two tablespoons chlorine bleach to one gallon of clean water.