UP to ten years ago, one year after sugar company Caroni (1975) Ltd was officially shut down, the soft hills of Todd's Road in central Trinidad were still laden with fruit-bearing citrus trees.
Acres of orchards stretched as far as the eye could see, rich with years of research that led to the development of the most prolific varieties of oranges, grapefruit, portugals and lemons.
Prior to the shutdown of Caroni Ltd, people could purchase citrus fruit by the hundreds, sometimes as cheaply as $20 per hundred at the field station during periods of surplus.
Trinidad and Tobago was exporting to the region and here at home, citrus prices were a far cry from what they are today with customers now paying up to $5 for a single orange, either from private orchards or from imported batches.
Now, the orchards of Todd's Road are dead.
Within two years of closure, most of the orchards were overgrown.
Many of the trees are now past their prime.
Acres of once clean, meticulously cared-for orchards are now nothing more than forest and one must look closely to see the few citrus trees that are still alive.
With the research station at Waterloo also closed, seedlings are scarce and expensive—some private plant vendors are currently charging up to $175 for specialised citrus trees.
Caroni Ltd's research and success in battling the citrus black fly, however, has endured, with the former company's findings and methods still being used around the region and the world today.
But the sadness of the ruined orchards still lingers for the former workers of the estate, many of whom still live around the Todd's Road/Caparo area.
One former fruit picker said he has given up on ever acquiring a lease to agricultural land from Caroni Ltd for his own use, but he remembers the glory days of the citrus estates fondly.
"Some of the sweetest portugals you will ever find come from here," he said.
The man, who did not want to be identified when he spoke to the Sunday Express last week, now works as a security guard.
"When I see what passing for citrus now and the price people have to pay, I want to cry. Look at the waste that happened here. Is thousands and thousands of trees gone," he lamented.
Some of the lands have been leased to private individuals and companies for agricultural use and many former workers are hoping to find jobs when and if the estate is revamped.
Here and there, a few plots have been cleared and are being cultivated with quicker crops such as hot peppers and papaya.
Farmer Phillip Peniston, who has sub-leased a portion of one parcel, said he is also hoping to acquire his own acreage for cultivation.
"There are true farmers out here but we cannot get land to work on," Peniston, 50, said.
"This country can produce much more food and can even sell more food. I am trying for years to get 20 acres to cultivate."
Sadly, even illegal quarrying has started to threaten the viability of the land itself.
The Estate Management Business Development Company (EMBD), recently stopped a sand miner, who was mining on the border of the old estate and storing the illegal material on the compound of the former estate office.
"The board of the EMBD was very upset about it and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has been asked to intervene," said EMBD chairman Stephen Broadbridge.
"Illegal quarrying is highly destructive to the environment around it and definitely will not be tolerated."
Broadbridge said it was a pity that the EMBD was not authorised to issue short-term leases to hasten land distribution.
"It is a sluggish process," Broadbridge said.
He said there was no reason the country could not revisit large-scale citrus production but there would be much that needed to be "re-learned".
Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj said last week the demise of citrus production was unfortunate.
"I agree there should be concern about the citrus industry," Maharaj said.
He said his ministry is currently trying to increase propagation by re-activating some abandoned estates, among them former orchards at Mapare and Plum Mitan.