MPs for Arima and Mayaro said hamper distributions to their constituents have been going well.
The Prime Minister announced on May 7 that the government would be supplying food hampers to families affected by covid19 restrictions.
“Everyone has been grateful (for the hampers),” said UNC MP for Mayaro Rushton Paray in a phone interview with Newsday on Tuesday. “The problem is, the demand is so much.”
He said a hotline was set up at his constituency office to facilitate constituents interested in the hampers. He said the task of collecting the names of those in need has been difficult but he has the support of the councillors for the area.
“We also went to NGOs and churches, (and) the Lions Club, who have a more intimate relationship with the families.”
He said, however, the demand outstrips the supply.
Paray said MPs were promised a supply of 1,200 hampers for each constituency, with 400 hampers each month for three months, in May, June and July. So far, he said, the hampers have been on schedule. In Mayaro they have already been distributed for the month of May and the June supply is awaited.
Paray said although he does not personally know of any farmers in his constituency who are contributing to the hampers, he is sure Mayaro farmers are making contributions. The area, he said, is well known for its root crops.
Hampers include provision, tomatoes, ochre, eggplant, squash, plantains, peppers and two frozen chickens.
On Tuesday, PNM MP for Arima Pennelope Beckles said so far distributions have been going well. She said she has received 400 hampers so far and is awaiting more.
She said hampers were supposed to be delivered to her on Monday but owing to the daytime curfew imposed for the Indian Arrival Day holiday other arrangements had to be made.
“I have a very large constituency,” she said. “I have rural communities as well. But I am trying my best.” She said the process has been overwhelming but the response has very good.
“It’s just not enough for everybody. But as an MP you do your part.”
She said she and members of her team always make their own donations of goods to distribute to the community.
“We don’t always depend on (the government) alone per se. Sometimes we get help from others, including the business community.”
She said farmers in the area, including those from the Heights of Aripo, Wallerfield, and the North Coast, come in regularly to contribute goods to other hamper initiatives by the MP's office.
In a phone interview with Newsday, National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (Namdevco) CEO Nirmala Debysingh-Persad said on Tuesday it had completed its distributions for the month of May, meeting its target of 25,000 hampers which were distributed throughout each of the 41 constituencies through the MP offices as well as churches, NGOs, and other charitable organisations.
She said as the need arises it will try its best to provide more. Namdevco aims to provide 25,000 of the market boxes per month for three months.
For the month of May, Debysingh-Persad said, Namdevco engaged over 100 individual farmers and will try to engage more in June. "We are always appealing to farmers to communicate with us. Let us know what you have. We will do our necessary checks and do what is needed to work with all farmers who express an interest."
She said Namdevco procures just over 110,000 pounds of produce with every delivery, averaging three deliveries per week, to meet its distribution targets.
She said Namdevco is working with one chicken supplier, the Poultry Association, which has graciously shared the demand for chicken with the MPs.
"We try our best to meet all of the requests that are coming in daily. We are working with MPs on how best we can facilitate their needs."