Land Settlement Agency responds to allegations of wilful crop destruction

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Farmers tend to their crops in Aranguez. File photo/Roger Jacob

The Land Settlement Agency (LSA) is denying claims by Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram that officials from the agency have wilfully destroyed the crops of a Vega de Oropouche farmer.

On Monday it was reported that Ratiram called on the government to cease the “wilful destruction” of agricultural crops. This came after crops belonging to farmer Mark Williams were bulldozed on March 25 and 26.

In a media release on Wednesday, CEO of the LSA Hazar Hosein insisted his agency continues to work with farmers even if they occupied state lands illegally, and proper consultation and discussions were held before any action was taken.

Hosein said the LSA allowed Williams to harvest the produce that was ready for market and also allowed other produce in varying stages of growth to remain undisturbed.

He also dismissed claims that the removal of crops was being done without proper consulation.

“The LSA has been having consultations with several of the farmers in the area, as well as representatives from the local government ministry, inclusive of the then local government councillor who has since been elevated to the chairmanship of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation.

“These consultations have been ongoing since October 2019 and there had been no protests from those who have attended. Mr Hosein also said that there have been fruitful discussions between representatives of the LSA, Mr Williams, and his wife in recent times,” the LSA release said.

Hosein said the LSA visited the site on two occasions – on March 28 and April 8, when it realised Williams did not have a certificate of comfort or evidence of an application for an agricultural lease to the Commissioner of State Lands.

He also said Williams did mixed farming on lands that began on Lot 75 but extended across the LSA’s proposed road reserve and included portions of unallocated and unoccupied lots.

He said Williams also admitted that no short-term crops were destroyed during the development, further contradicting Ratiram’s claims.

Hosein said the LSA recognises the importance of food security and agricultural development and promised to continue working with the owners of short-term crops even if they were cultivated illegally on government lands.