Mon | Nov 18, 2019

$50M relief for Flagaman farmers

Published:Sunday | October 20, 2019 | 1:08 PM
State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green (4th left), presents Leroy Gayle (centre), one of the farmers affected by fire in Flagaman, St Elizabeth, with irrigation hoses during a presentation ceremony at the Pedro Plains Anglican church hall in the parish, on Friday. Others (from left) are: permanent Ssecretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Dermon Spence; principal director, Field Services and Operations, Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Winston Simpson; acting principal finance officer in the ministry, Ann-Marie Tomlinson; chief executive officer, RADA, Peter Thompson; chief technical director in the ministry, Dr Roy McNeil; RADA St. Elizabeth parish manager, Nathan Samuels; and farmer, Ian Dowell.

The government has provided close to $50 million worth of relief supplies for 47 farmers in Flagaman, St Elizabeth, who suffered losses during a fire in August.

The expenditure includes over $14.3 million worth of supplies, comprising 28 black tanks, irrigation fixtures, hoses, more than 100 bags of fertilizer and a variety of seeds, among them - onion, sweet pepper, watermelon, and cantaloupe.  

Additionally, the farmers have been provided with over 30 truckloads of guinea grass, to be used for mulching.

More than 200 acres of farmland were razed by the fire, which resulted in losses estimated at $45 million.

Some of the supplies were handed over by State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) Floyd Green during a ceremony at the Pedro Plains Anglican Church Hall in St Elizabeth, on Friday.

Green said the Government was prompted to initiate and expedite the relief effort to ensure that the farmers get back into production in short order, as they are deemed critical to safeguarding Jamaica’s food security.  

He said the Government acted through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), “which has been here from day one”, adding that “we quickly identified the farmers who were affected and we analysed the need”.

“When we came and saw the devastation, we decided that we had to quickly get to work, because Flagaman is too important a community to allow it to not be able to produce… [as it] has the most registered farmers of any community in Jamaica,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state minister lauded private sector entities contributing over $2 million worth of supplies to the affected farmers.

Jamaica Broilers, through Hi-Pro, provided seeds, chemicals and fertilizers valued $1 million, while H and L Agro supplied $1 million worth of hybrid vegetable and fruit seeds, fertilizers, and branded drums.

Green said fertilizer blender and supplier, Newport Fersan (Jamaica) Limited, conducted soil tests in the fire-damaged area which concluded that “despite the fire, the organic matter in the soil is still there in sufficient quantities for planting”.

“One of the things we knew for a fact was that the Government could not do it alone. We realised that we needed the private sector to come on board, and a number of companies have come in to assist,” he added.

The state minister said the affected farmers are expected to resume full production, which should auger well, particularly for the Christmas season.

Meanwhile, one of the recipients, Vernon Fearon, who expressed gratitude on behalf of the beneficiaries, lauded the Government for moving quickly to assist them “to get back on their feet’.

“August 16 [when the fire occurred] was not an ordinary day for us in Flagaman… [so] we must applaud the Government… [and] thumbs up to the RADA staff… they did well. As a result of the assistance that has been given to us, we are now charged with the responsibility to let the effect be known, seen and felt in the market place,” he said.