Caroni crab vendors seek permanent home

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Crab vendor Vijay Bassie shows off his blue crabs for sale in Caroni on Friday. - Marvin Hamilton
Crab vendor Vijay Bassie shows off his blue crabs for sale in Caroni on Friday. – Marvin Hamilton

It has been a difficult month for crab vendors to generate a source of income.

Many of their customers have been displaced from their jobs due to the covid19 restrictions.

And with the implementation of the 7pm weekend curfew, crab vendors have had to also adjust their hours to vend and catch crabs.

David Manbode, 33, whose family has been selling crab at the Caroni Bridge roundabout for the past 20 years, told Sunday Newsday he is confused and fearful about losing his only source of income.

“Our times to set traps have changed. So instead of getting an early start like about 4am we now lose an hour in our day. And with the new 7pm curfew (from Friday to Sunday), our selling time has been cut short. This has affected our sales especially on weekends when we get most of our sales.

“Now we have to hustle to get crabs back home and, in some cases, we go far to set the traps. Our nearest locations are the mangroves in Caroni, Felicity and Carli Bay. I really don’t know what will happen this weekend.”

Manbode lives with his wife and two children and is the lone breadwinner of his household. He said there were drastic cuts on his expenditure, which included downgrading his internet package.

He said, “It may sound like I’m complaining about nothing but I’m not. School is still in progress and my children need internet access to get the work done.

Crab vendor David Manbode ties a bunch of hairy crab together in Caroni on Friday. – Marvin Hamilton

“Most of our sales are happen on Saturdays, during the week is usually slow. My weekly income has been cut in half and the cost to catch the crabs take up most of it. Fuel alone is so expensive. Crab is not something that we can keep for a long time and sell at a later date.”

Manbode sympathised with the many families not able to access basic amenities and questioned the efforts by the authorities to assist struggling families.

Manbode said his average catch is about 60-100 crabs daily and a small bundle of crab is sold at $50, a medium bundle goes for $60, and a large bundle is $70.

He said not only has the pandemic restrictions affected their livelihoods, but also the uncertainty of a place to sell their daily catch is worrisome.

“For years now there has been talks to relocate us or at least give us proper facilities to sell but nothing has been done. The roundabout is the ideal location for us because it has been the venue for years, where people from all over would come to buy.”

Two weeks since police officers from the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation moved to stop the crab vendors from plying their trade. The vendors were told that they could not sell at the site because vending was restricted and were ordered to close their stalls.

They, however, returned the day after with the support of St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen and through discussions with the corporation.

Manbode said the crab vendors were not against being relocated but they were fed up with the promises and no deliverables.

“We have been hearing for years now about a relocation, but nothing is being done, yet they (police) come to forcefully remove us without warning. This is our bread and butter they are playing with.”

Another crab vendor, Lutchman Kalicharran, 33, said this was his family’s only source of income at this time because of the covid19 restrictions.

His two brothers who worked in the construction industry have also turned to crab vending to assist the family of seven members.

Bunches of blue crabs for sale in Caroni on Friday. – Marvin Hamilton

Kalicharran who has been selling at the Caroni Bridge roundabout for the past 12 years told Sunday Newsday, “It has been hard for us and since the police removed us, we are unsure if we can sell at the roundabout or not.

“Police has been advising us to start selling in front our homes. I cannot do that. I live in side street where there is no vehicular traffic. That doesn’t make sense for my family.”

Sunday Newsday reached out to Ameen to get an update on the progress of relocation and was told that there was no word from the corporation on the matter.

She said the corporation planned to conduct a data collection exercise but because of the covid19 restrictions employees at the corporation were not at work.

“Since the last incident we have not had any police coming to stop vendors, but it remains a “cat and mouse” game between vendors and police. The vendors have no authorisation to use the site and they have been pleading with the authorities for regularisation,” Ameen said.

She noted that there were two suggested sites for relocation near the Caroni Bridge that would be able to facilitate a fully developed crab market, which would include parking, washroom, running water and other amenities, but the corporation has not responded to the recommendations.

Sunday Newsday also contacted corporation chairman Kwasi Robinson who said he would not comment further on the matter.

On June 2, he said there was need to create a balance between vending and giving vendors an opportunity to earn an income,

“My position is known on people’s livelihoods. I think a human approach is needed at this time. But at my next council meeting I will raise this issue with my councillors.”



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