By Latonya Linton
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – The ministry of agriculture and fisheries announced a $646.9-million support package for farmers affected by the recent heavy rains. Portfolio minister, Floyd Green, told the House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 11 that the package is geared at helping more than 14,000 farmers to restart planting as quickly as possible.
He said that some 2,955 hectares of crops were lost, valued at approximately $2.5 billion and impacting 4,181 farmers. Crops lost in the deluge include legumes, vegetables, condiments, cereal, plantains, fruits, Irish and sweet potatoes, bananas, yam, cassava and sorrel. Overall livestock losses amounted to some $38.9 million with a total of approximately 780 farmers being affected.
Minister Green said that the funds from the support package will be distributed through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Members of Parliament (MPs) and public-private partnership.
The support programme will be focused on the parishes that experienced the greatest losses. These include Manchester, St Elizabeth, St Catherine, St Thomas, Clarendon and St Andrew.
“RADA extension officers across the island have been dispatched to identify areas and farmers who were more significantly impacted. These farmers are now advised to follow up with their extension officers and parish offices in order to access the benefits,” minister Green said.
“The farmers will be required to complete a beneficiary assessment form and follow the instructions given by their RADA officer. Those registered will be directed to select farm stores to access their benefits,” he added. He informed that a sum of $64.5 million is to be dispatched through the MPs via RADA for immediate support to farmers in their respective areas.
He said that some 20 urban MPs will be provided with $500,000 each, 20 rural MPs will be provided up to $1 million each, and 21 MPs in those areas significantly impacted will each receive up to $1.5 million.
The agriculture minister also announced a backyard gardening programme, to which the ministry has committed $10 million to provide 2,500 householders with backyard farming kits valuing approximately $4,000 each.
The ministry will also be providing direct support to farmers in the form of a pesticide programme valued at $95 million. The chemicals to be distributed include fungicides, herbicides and insecticides to combat current and expected heavy infestations due to the continuous rainfall.
“Assorted seeds and other planting material will be provided to the tune of $215 million. These inputs will be provided to open-field farmers as well as greenhouse producers whose growing fields and covered vegetation have been partially or completely wiped out,” minister Green told the House.
The ministry is also allocating $30 million for fertiliser to assist in replenishing nutrition to aid rapid crop recovery. As it relates to the public-private partnership, minister Green said that the value of such contribution, to date, is $20.3 million. The package of support to farmers includes the rehabilitation of roadways under the Farm Road Programme.
Minister Green told the House that 17 farm roads will be rehabilitated at a cost of $111.6 million. Additionally, the ministry has isolated some $100 million, which will be redistributed to repair roads in other affected areas.
Approximately $40 million has been earmarked to urgently repair greenhouses and shade houses that have been damaged, to get farmers back into production.
Support in the amount of $5 million will go towards restoring bee colonies that have been destroyed, and $20 million has been earmarked for other livestock to include pigs and small ruminants.