Vendors’ tarmac, road rehabilitation part of massive redesign for Leonora market
By Kurt Campbell
President Irfaan Ali on Saturday returned to the Leonora market, West Coast Demerara, a place he frequented as a child and young adult, announcing that a massive reconfiguration of the space would take place in the near future.
The market has grown exponentially in recent years, resulting in an overflowing of vendors coming from as far as Regions Two and Six to sell their produce in the Region Three community. But while economic activity is booming it has given rise to new issues.
Dr. Ali heard of those during his walkabout on Saturday, accompanied by several government ministers and regional officials. Among the two main grumbles of vendors was the overcrowding of the already dilapidated road but more importantly, traditional vendors who continue to occupy their rented stalls aback the market have now complained of dwindling business activity.
Shoppers are fewer there since there is no longer a need to walk to the market because vendors have taken up the access road and parts of the main carriageway through Leonora.
But the Head of State was equipped with a solution.
First, he said a massive tarmac will be built in close proximity to where the decrepit market structure still stands, decades after its construction. That structure will also undergo upgrades.
“As a market top review, people seemed inclined to this as a solution.”
Dr. Ali said once the tarmac is built, a feature that has been replicated many times throughout the country, vendors will be relocated there. The President has already received the commitment of vendors to do so.
With that resulting in a removal of vendors from the access road, Dr. Ali said the government will be able to move in and redo the road.
“It’s a chicken and egg scenario. The road has to be done but the vendors are on the road. There is an existing market, vendors are outside the market and the people inside are suffering.”
“As a Guyanese family, we have to come up with a common solution with a shared interest, shared responsibility and shared benefits,” Dr. Ali said.
He also said that there will be another ministerial outreach to the market before the end of April where the Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh; Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Waldrond and Minister within the Ministry of Public Works Deodat Indar will meet with the vendors and lay out the government’s plans.
They will also conduct a further assessment of the situation and examine how the government can assist the bigger issue of ensuring disposal income for citizens.
VEGETABLE PRICES DOWN, DRY GOODS PRICES FLUCTUATE
The President’s visit to the market was to also conduct an assessment of the prices for vegetables and other essential commodities.
The story repeated itself and vendor after vendor assured the President that the prices for vegetables were almost back to pre-inflation charges, a period that saw a significant rise in prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing global supply chain setbacks and more recently the invasion of Ukraine by Russian armed forces.
But while the prices for vegetables seemed favourable on the West Coast of Demerara, the prices for dry goods varied.
The President met Gobin, a pine vendor who assured him and his team that the prices for that fruit had gone down. But important to Gobin’s story was that although prices had increased in recent months, he never increased his prices and weathered the storm until now.
Ganesh Sankar, a farmer from Crabwood Creek, Corentyne, was retailing red peas he grew on his farm located well over 100 miles away. His selling price was $300 per pint but Sankar said vendors were buying from him and reselling at $600 per pint, representing a 100 per cent profit.
A bottle of oil is now being sold for $3,000 – a decrease from $3,500 – but it is still above the $1,800 it was being sold for earlier in the year.
Vendors rearing and selling chicken also reported that the shortage in the commodity was no longer a major issue and prices were decreasing. The commodity was being sold for $400 per lbs wholesale and retailed at $480 per lbs; this is a decrease from $520 being charged weeks ago.
The President said this reality will inform the government’s policy going forward.