Minister of Food Production, Land and Marine Resources Vasant Bharath says farmers whose crops were destroyed in Mausica on Monday should have been given appropriate time to reap their crops.Close to 100 acres of farm land at Crescent Gardens, Mausica Road, D'Abadie, were bulldozed by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) to clear the way for a new housing project.Crops destroyed included sweet potatoes, pineapple, bodi, cassava, peas, corn and other vegetables.
Yesterday, Bharath who spoke with the media after meeting a delegation of farmers at the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Resources, St Clair, said the farmers should have been given time to reap their crops before the HDC moved to take control of the lands."Where you get to the situation where farmers have been planting crops whether legally or illegally you should give them the appropriate time to reap their crops," he said.The minister said this should have been looked at "by the people going in to give the farmers their (eviction) notices."He said the issues had stemmed from farmers not receiving land tenure because slow processes at the ministry over the years.
Bharath said these farmers could not be held "accountable to the State," because it was the State's fault they were not granted tenure in a timely manner. He said he had limited influence on the lands because the lands were not under his ministry.Bharath, however, assured farmers he would intervene. He said planned to meet with acting Minister of Housing and the Environment Emmanuel George.The farmers, in protest action outside the ministry's offices in St Clair yesterday, demanded compensation and those responsible for clearing the land to be held accountable.
President of the T&T Agricultural Society Dahano Sookoo, Cocoa and Coffee Industry Board of T&T representative Terrace Haywood and president of the Sheep and Goat Farmers Association Shiraz Khan, who met with Bharath, said farmers were demanding compensation at market value for their crops and an apology from HDC's line Minister Roodal Moonilal.After meeting Bharath, the farmers moved their protest to the HDC offices in Port-of-Spain.Farmers dumped the remains of the crops which were destroyed on Monday in front of the HDC's entrance and demanded HDC chief executive officer Jearlean John step down.