Upgrade of fresh food markets overdue
With the new government announcing that priority attention will be given to the upgrading of local markets, stakeholders in western Jamaica are hopeful that the subpar municipal markets in the region will get some much-needed attention.
A middle-age female vendor, who has been operating out of the Cleveland Stanhope Market in Lucea, Hanover, for more than three decades, says the upgrading is long overdue as they have fallen prey to burglary, poor maintenance, ventilation problems, space issues and general neglect.
"A time fe Lucea market get upliftment ... de people suffer too much .... some a de people dem weh did a sell inna di market and dem dead ... a de poor condition mek dem dead ... It bad man; it caa worse," lamented the vendor. "Sometime mi nuh feel like go inna de market, but mi say a mi likkle living; a it mi tek and raise mi pickney dem ... is a shame man .... mi caa find words fi describe Lucea Market. A di worse market inna Jamaica."
The elderly vendor went on to blame the deplorable conditions inside the market for the exodus of those vendors, who are now selling on the outside in breach of the regulations outlined by the municipal authorities.
The vendor, who is aware of the government's campaign promise to invest in the upgrading of fresh food markets with a view of having them become 'portals to farmers' success, with the provision of 'an attractive, convenient, sanitary and modern atmosphere,' is hoping that the promise will be kept.
During the 2015-2016 Sectoral Debate, former Local Government Minister, Noel Arscott, said that, through the ministry's Market Rehabilitation Programme, several local markets will be upgraded via a public/private partnership.
"Markets are key to connecting farmers and fishers with the rewards of their time and investments. Without markets that are conveniently located and connected by strong transport links, farmers will remain limited to their own communities and vulnerable to the ups and downs of seasonal production," Arscott said at the time. "With improved sanitation, amenities for customers and vendors and proper promotion, these markets can also become tourist attractions."
Negril-based farmer and hotelier, Daniel Grizzle, said an upgrade, especially for the Savanna-la-Mar and Lucea markets, was long overdue.
"The markets we have, need to be redesigned to fit modern times," said Grizzle. "Even if they are newly built, it is built the same way they built it nearly a hundred years ago, with tiny little cubicles and they are not made to be comfortable. This is what I call the appeasement of the poor; so rather than put people somewhere which is uplifting, it is as if you build and say 'this is all you deserve, take it."
"They have to bear in mind that it will be human beings that will be occupying them. They must be clean; they must be accessible and it has to be maintained, because maintenance is what we fall short on, on all our public spaces," added Grizzle.