FARMERS who occupied State lands at Orange Grove were yesterday allotted parcels of land to continue their trade, but are dissatisfied with the way the lands have been divided.
Speaking with members of the media following the allotment ceremony at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, president of the Orange Grove Farmers Association Bobby Baboolal said the farmers planted in a north-to-south direction and now the lands are east to west.
Baboolal said the way the lands were divided while they were squatting farmers made it easier for farmers to access water. The way it is now, he said, some farmers would not be able to access the irrigated water supply which comes from nearby Caroni River or ponds that have been dug.
Another member of the association, Harridath Chinwasa, said some farmers who dug ponds on the lands they were using to plant would lose out financially as they would now have to re-dig ponds to get water to supply their lots of land.
The land was shared so that 185 farmers received two acres each; 25 got three acres; five received four acres; ten got five acres; and three farmers received six acres each.
Chinwasa took members of the media to Orange Grove, where 228 farmers were made to share 523 acres of land, to highlight the plight some farmers would face.
He pointed out that the irrigation courses are east to west and the land allotments are in the same direction so farmers between those closest to the irrigated water would suffer.
He added that a large parcel of land closest to an underground spring was supposed to have been set aside to be used as a reservoir but instead has been allotted for farming.
Both Baboolal and Chinwasa said they are grateful for the regularising of the lands, however, the State should have consulted them given that they were the ones who used the lands in the past ten to 15 years.
During the ceremony, the farmers were admonished by Commissioner of State Lands Kumar Koonoolal to use the land as directed or else they would lose it.
Koonoolal said those selected would be on a three-year probationary period and if the farmers show productivity they could receive a five-year lease for up to six times.
He emphasised that constructing any building larger than 600 square feet could result in eviction.
He added that food crops are to be planted on the land only or else the thought of eviction would become a reality. If evicted, he said, farmers would not be compensated.
During his feature address, Minister of Food Production Devant Maharaj encouraged the farmers to make full use of all the resources available to them to produce at an optimum level.