Speaking with Newsday prior to leaving for Brazil yesterday, Rambachan, also said the Pasqual Road, Piper Trace, Ramlochan Trace, Arch Trace and Piper Branch Trace agricultural access roads will be rehabilitated starting in May.
He said as a result of the Access Road Programme, 47 farmers occupying over 125 acres of agricultural land will benefit from these rehabilitation works.
Rambachan also noted that dredging of the Tabac River in Tabaquite began recently, and this, he said, will alleviate the flooding that destroyed hundreds of acres of crops last year.
“At present four excavators hired by the Ministry of Food Production are carrying out the dredging works to clear channels and deepen the river. Approximately 60 farmers and 180 acres of productive lands will benefit,” he said.
“Tabaquite produces up to 750,000 heads of cabbage per year and can substantially increase this amount with the dredging. In addition tomato crops are going to be protected,” he told Newsday.
Rambachan said on Sunday he met with farmers at both Brothers Road and Tabaquite to hear their concerns.
During the visit, Bhoge Persad, president of the Brothers Road Farmers Association, lamented the decades of neglect of farmers in the area by past representatives.
Persad noted that farmers mainly grew cocoa, coffee, citrus and banana, however, there was an increased diversification into root crops, vegetables, pineapples and pawpaw with a few poultry farmers.
He said three major problems have plagued farmers for more than a decade; access roads, praedial larceny and bush fires.
“Lack of access roads has virtually decimated our Agriculture industry causing mass abandonment of very productive estates. Most of these access roads fall under the jurisdiction of the Couva Tabaquite Talparo Regional Corporation and their maintenance has steadily declined over the last fifteen years, being reduced today to the occasional cutlassing, except in areas where residential homes exist,” Persad told Rambachan. He also pointed out that Pasqual Road had two broken bridges for the past 13 years and the road between the Poole River and Stafford Road was totally abandoned.
“Our constant pleas to our Local Government Representative continues to be diplomatically sidelined with famous excuses that Central Government is not releasing funds. With the same party now controlling both Central and Local Governments, after one year, what now are the reasons for the continued neglect? We would certainly like your intervention in rectifying this,” Persad told Rambachan.
Persad also pleaded with the MP to lobby on their behalf so that the two bridges over Palmiste and Poole Rivers at Pasqual Road, can be rebuilt.
Persad also noted that the problem of indiscriminate logging was a problem and made it difficult for farmers to access their gardens.
Praedial larceny was also a serious problem plaguing Tabaquite farmers.
Persad also noted that there was a lack of effective technical support by field officers, especially from the Cocoa and Coffee Industry Board.
“We are also appealing for more emphasis to be placed in revitalising the Coffee Industry and for a better price for both cocoa and coffee. Consideration should also be given to some form of compensation to farmers whose lands were destroyed by fire,” he said,
Persad also suggested that NAMDEVCO establish a packaging house at the abandoned Tanteak compound at Brothers Road to facilitate farmers sales as well as provide increased employment opportunities in the area.