Traumatised vendors who had left thousands of dollars in produce in their stalls overnight in the Chaguanas Market spent all of Saturday night outside the locked facility anxiously awaiting word on when they can retrieve their goods.
They were told, however, they could not get their goods and all was left to perish.
A Saturday night “breaking news” release from Chaguanas Mayor Faaiq Mohammed on his Facebook page that the market was to be closed with immediate effect until further notice because a vendor tested positive for Covid-19 spread like wildfire among vendors.
The release stated: “Please note that the Chaguanas Market will be closed with immediate effect as a vendor has tested positive for Covid-19 today.
“In light of this, the market will be sanitised and we will be guided by the CMOH (County Medical Officer of Health) on a date of reopening. Rest assured we are taking all the necessary precautions to ensure that we keep the burgesses of Chaguanas safe.”
Within minutes, more than 55 vendors who had their goods in the market were outside the facility desperately seeking answers.
“I live nearby and I reached by the market around 11.55 p.m. and stayed outside the market until 9 a.m. Sunday morning,” a distraught vendor told the Express.
“I took all my money I made Saturday and invested in goods and left it on my stalls. The goods accustom staying in the market as usual. I have not a dollar this morning.
“We came with bleach thinking that at least they would let us in to sanitise our stuff and leave with it but the Borough police and the market clerk said no.
“I spent $5,000 buying produce for the next day. I have two boxes of big tomatoes, five boxes of small ones, 40 pounds of seim, ginger, cabbage, 500 pounds of sweet potatoes, a box of lettuce. Is thousands of dollars in vendors’ produce lost. The only thing I have left with is a $1,000 load of pumpkin lying down here in my gallery,” she said.
Vendors claimed that meat left in cold storage by vendors also disappeared.
“Vendors asked a market security officer about their meat and he said there was nothing in the storage,” said one.
The vendors said many of them will not be willing to use the nearby National Marketing Development Company’s (Namdevco) Woodford Lodge Farmers’ Market offered as a temporary alternative.
Alternative market ‘abandoned, frequented by crack addicts’
Contacted by the Express for comment, Minister of Agriculture and Food Production Clarence Rambharat said, “I have asked Namdevco to offer the Borough Corporation the Woodford Lodge Farmers’ Market as a temporary site for vending to continue until the Chaguanas Market is cleared for use again.
I just confirmed that over 40 vendors used the Woodford Lodge facility today.”
But vendors described this area as “abandoned” and said people are at risk of being raped in the back there.
They said the area is frequented by crack addicts.
“I’m home. I have nothing else to do. I am out of an income for now,” a vendor said.
“I’m not going Woodford Lodge to sell my remaining pumpkin. You don’t know the area. I grew up near the area and I know. It’s abandoned. You could get raped, you could get all kind of thing in the back there.”
She said the market was washed down Saturday night, as usual.
“One of the market officials told us she has to quarantine herself. But what was she doing in the market Sunday morning?
On top of that, she said three young female vendors who were by the market are primary contacts and they were on the list for quarantine.”
Vendors asked when the market will be reopened and were told “until further notice” and “all they kept saying is it’s out of their hands”.
The closure of the market came after a Holy Thursday confrontation between vendors and municipal police officers in the market.
Dozens of vendors were arrested and charged with using obscene language, resisting arrest and unlawful conduct after officers moved into the market.