Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 23rd 2014 Contents A7
March 23, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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A grave labour shortage is hindering the
start-up of the Caribbean and T&T s first $3
million "Pick Your Own Vegetables" mega farm,
which is expected to be launched next month.
Several advertisements placed in the print
media seeking labourers for the 100-acre
Chaguaramas Farm in Tucker Valley, has yielded
little or no results in the last three months.
For the farm s managing director Joe Pires, it s
his biggest headache.
Pires efforts to woo labourers have brought
frustration and stress, as he gets set to open his
The latest statistics obtained from the Central
Statistical Office showed that from the first to
the fourth quarters of 2012, there were altogether
13,500 people employed in the agriculture, forestry,
hunting and fishing sectors.
The farm operates under Five Stars Farms Ltd,
owned by Pires.
"What we want to offer is a one-stop shop
for high quality produce at competitive prices,"
Pires said while the concept of the farm was
not new, it will be the first for T&T and the
In 2012 Five Star Farms Ltd won a bid to
operate the land managed by the Chaguaramas
Pires first thought of growing onions on a
large scale with a 30-year lease in hand.
"That was our original idea. But we realised
that a stand-alone farm would not be viable...it
would not generate enough revenue for our busi-
ness and therefore, we needed to think outside
of the box."
Farms abroad specialise in one crop, but Pires
intends to offer a variety, many of which would
be new to consumers.
Jones: We approached
Perry Jones, the farm s manager, and a few
workers have been painstakingly cultivating the
Jones said while the farm has been operating,
its biggest setback was acquiring labour.
For months they have been searching for work-
ers without success.
As a last resort, Jones said, he approached
Rebirth House, a drug rehabilitation centre, to
source recovering addicts, but many had little
or no agricultural skills, while others were not
"We are really in a crisis. It s like searching for
a needle in a hay stack. I never thought we would
have reached to this stage in the agriculture sector,
but this is the reality."
Jones said they retained some workers without
checking their background, only to discover they
were not trustworthy and had to dismiss them.
"Now we have to screen and ask everyone
interested in working for a police record as a
Maharaj: People do not see
agriculture as viable
Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj
described the labour shortage as "a real prob-
Maharaj said the shortfall was attributed to
several reasons, but its main basis "is people do
not see it as a viable source of income."
This, he said, is not so.
In the last year, Maharaj said, his ministry
has been working with URP, OJT and Cepep
to train individuals to work, but the issue con-
tinues to linger on.
Haywood: Our hands are tied
President of the National Foodcrop Farmers
Association Terrence Haywood admitted they
have a high demand for labour, but few people
have been coming forward.
Haywood said farmers have been sourcing
labour from Guyana.
"The farmers go to Guyana and bring back
people who are willing to work on farms for
$150 to $200 per day."
Haywood said locals have been gravitating
towards Cepep, which requires less hours of
work for a full day s pay.
"This is the culture we are accepting and
encouraging. People just want everything easy.
Many of the farmers have complained to the
association, but our hands are tied. This is a
matter for the ministry to deal with."
David Abdulah responds
Movement for Social Justice leader, David
Abdulah said T&T was facing national labour
Abdulah said in 2009 Fitun had recommended
to the then PNM government to transform part
of Cepep into a farmpep programme to boost
the industry, which never materialised.
The establishment of community based co-
operatives was also recommended, Abdulah
He said while the issue generated a lot of
debate, little was done.
Sections of the labour market, Abdulah said,
are faced with employees who have little skills
and paid minimum wage.
CHARLES KONG SOO
After her car was wrecked in front
her own house and without a word
from the police officer on duty, St
James resident Asha McLeod wants
answers from the T&T Police Service.
McLeod had arrived home with her
boyfriend just after 9 pm on Thursday,
and parked in front her garage on Jerry
Street in St James.
She said her boyfriend was parked
outside because he had to go back out
after they had offloaded some items.
While McLeod was inside her
house, after taking out some
belongings from the car and her
boyfriend had just brought in her
daughter, she heard her sister-in-
law who was now coming home
shouting animatedly that the
wrecker was taking their vehicle.
McLeod s sister-in-law was try-
ing to explain to the wrecking
crew that the Nissan B15 belonged
to them, and that they lived there.
She said the police officer did
not speak a word to her and just
continued hooking up the vehicle.
They then drove off with it in a
McLeod said, "It s not fair, that s
where I live. If I m wrong, I don t
have a problem accepting respon-
sibility, but I was parked in front
my own house, I live here and I
wasn t blocking anybody.
"The police officer could have
at least said something and find
out; if he was moving the car he
could have asked who it belonged
"At least give us the opportu-
nity to say something, if we can t
park there, tell us maybe park on
the other side. But he didn t give
a proper explanation, he didn t
wait for that and just went with
She said her car was open and
unlocked with her valuables still
McLeod said by the time she
came out of her house, the wreck-
er had almost reached the corner.
That same night she paid the
$500 wrecking fee to retrieve her
impounded vehicle at Dock Road
McLeod said it was also to no
avail trying to explain to the police
officers that she was parked in
front her residence and wasn t
She said the hard part was most
of the residents on her street
parked in front their houses and
were not wrecked.
McLeod asked why didn t the
wrecker start from the top of the
street and not just target her car
and left others alone.
She said she was taking her
matter to the Police Complaints
Authority (PCA) and hoped that
PCA director Gillian Lucky could
address the situation.
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PoS corporation: Present
written statement to
Pick your own vegetables...
Labour shortage hits $3m farm
St James woman's car wrecked in front her house
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ABOUT THE FARM
Caribbean Chemicals and Agencies Ltd managing
director Joe Pires smiles for the camera while
holding a green house grown pepper plant last
week, at the 5 Star Farms in Chaguaramas.
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