More than 40 farmers have been left on the breadline after Tuesday’s 6.9 magnitude earthquake caused severe damage to acres of agricultural lands and destroyed almost $2 million in crops at Los Iros, Erin. As a consequence, consumers have been warned to brace for a shortage of vegetables and a hike in prices as the farmers will be hard pressed to supply the food basket in South Trinidad. About an hour after the earthquake there was massive earth movement in Erin, resulting in the formation of huge cracks of varying depths across a kilometre of Erin Los Iros Road and sinkage of some areas of 40 acres of agricultural land. Some 20 irrigation ponds were destroyed, three stock houses were damaged and a plough and tractor fell into the cracks. Hundreds of thousands of crops, including hot pepper, tomato, ochro, bodi and eggplant, were buried in the dirt. Pleading for urgent assistance yesterday, Los Iros Hill View Farmers Association president Rishi Ramraj said the land began moving about an hour after the earthquake. “People were on the land and they started to run, luckily they knew the area and got out. Otherwise, they would have been buried in the dirt,” said Ramraj. “The land break and crack open in plenty places about five to 20 feet deep in some places. The widest crack is about five feet. The food crop area is about 100 acres, so we not sure how if more areas affected.” He said the farmers also could not plant on that land anytime soon. “We need excavation and land preparation there,” he said, adding, “We need the Ministry of Agriculture to come and fix the road, fix the pond and prepare the land.” Ramraj also asked for compensation for their losses. “We need urgent assistance. We have instalments at the ADB, school opening just now, we have bills to pay,” lamented Ramraj, adding the caretakers and watchmen who reside in the stock houses have been forced to seek refuge elsewhere. Ramraj said officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries visited the site and promised to give them feedback in a short time. When contacted yesterday, Minister Clarence Rambharat said he was paying close attention to the situation because it was an important food producing area. Noting that the area has had coastal erosion issues, the minister felt it was a combination of that and the earthquake which caused the land slippage and cracks. He said an engineering team visited the site yesterday and would be returning today. With regards to compensation, he said he had not seen anything so far to indicate there was destruction of crops. Rambharat, however, said he intended to visit the area in the coming days to do his own assessment. “Now is not the time to talk compensation. If we need to intervene. We will intervene and see where we go from there,” Rambharat, adding there were no other reports of destruction of agricultural lands due to the earthquake.