After more than half a year of being closed, the Garapan Public Market is set to be back in business by the end of this month.
In a membership meeting Wednesday night, the CNMI Farmers Cooperative Association, led by president Crispin Deleon Guerrero, agreed and announced their soft opening date on March 31.
According to co-op secretary Sid Cabrera, the farmers are ready to begin selling their produce at the market.
Although there are still not a lot of fruits particularly mangoes, banana, and avocados, they are hoping to fill the shelves of the market through the help of both member and non-member farmers.
They are also coordinating with farmers from Tinian and Rota since they may be able to send fresh produce to sell on Saipan. However, these may be a bit higher in price due to the cost of shipping.
The co-op is seeking the support of hotels and restaurants in buying their produce, which are all grown locally to help farmers and the economy as well.
Aside from more than 30 co-op members who attended the meeting, government officials were also present including Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.
During the meeting, Torres told the farmers that he will be assisting them including providing the co-op with $2,000 worth of seeds.
“We’re buying seeds to sell to the farmers,” Cabrera said, adding that sometimes it’s difficult for them to find the right kind of seeds for the right fruit to grow on the islands.
The governor will also provide temporary manpower to assist the farmers in their soft opening. At least two staff will be assigned to the market.
According to Cabrera, the co-op still doesn’t have a manager who will take care of the market operations.
“We are actively looking for a manager. Someone who knows how to run a business,” Cabrera said.
The Northern Marians College-Cooperative Research, Extension, and Education Service was also present at the meeting and will be providing technical assistance to the farmers with regards to how to better grow their produce.
For their part, the co-op is seeking the help of the government in providing them vehicles for produce delivery, especially to hotels and restaurants. They are also seeking help from the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation for more funding.
Cabrera said they are looking at operating the market on a whole day schedule possibly from Mondays through Saturdays once it opens.