THE north-eastern coastal parishes of St Thomas, Portland and St Mary, which were battered by Hurricane Sandy in late October, are to receive the bulk of some $55 million in recovery assistance for farmers, according to Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke.
Clarke told the House of Representatives last Tuesday that his ministry, through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), has provided assistance for approximately 6,000 farmers in the aftermath of the hurricane, including 4,000 produce farmers, 1,500 fisherfolk and 500 cocoa growers.
Information provided by the minister in response to questions tabled by Opposition spokesman JC Hutchinson, showed that Portland, St Mary and St Thomas each received $1.7 million for land preparation, compared to St Andrew's $750,000, the next highest land preparation figure.
St Mary got the most funding for broiler chickens and feed, $700,000, followed by St Thomas with $650,000 and Portland, St Andrew and St Catherine with $500,000 each.
Farmers in these parishes also received bags of fertiliser and seeds, and Clarke promised that an additional $3 million would be spent on providing more fertiliser.
The parishes of Hanover, St Elizabeth and St James only received fertiliser, while Kingston and Westmoreland received no farm recovery support.
Clarke said that an assistance package has also been put together which includes the $120 million in the Banana Resuscitation (Loan) Programme, an agricultural and productivity project primarily financed by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) to the tune of $100 million.
In addition, the ministry has provided $13.5 million at the National PC Bank to reduce the interest rate from 8.5 per cent to five per cent for loans disbursed to banana and plantain farmers. The other $5 million is being contributed by the Agricultural Credit Board (ACB) to enable supervision of the loans and provision of technical advice.
The European Union (EU) has agreed to contribute euro 100,000 ($13.5 million) in fertiliser and insecticides to the farmers, and the distribution will be facilitated through the RADA offices. Approximately 1,000 farmers will benefit from this facility.
The grant will be given only to legitimate registered banana and plantain farmers, who must present documentation to verify registration. RADA will procure and distribute materials to the farmers and utilisation of the materials grant will be supervised by the Banana Board.
Clarke said that the Coffee Industry Board has received $40 million from the ministry, and has engaged the Jamaica Coffee Exporters' Association and the Jamaica Coffee Growers Association in the logistics for the distribution of inputs.
The fisheries subsector has received $15 million to assist recovery efforts, and the cocoa subsector has received $15 million since December 2012 to assist farmers in St Ann, Portland, St Mary, St Catherine and Clarendon.
Clarke explained that RADA is the agency focusing on distributing the benefits to the farmers, but that the Banana Board, the DBJ through PC Banks, the Agricultural Credit Board and the European Banana Support Programme are the main channels for distribution for banana farmers.
The Coffee Industry Board will be distributing inputs through the Jamaica Coffee Exporters' Association and the Jamaica Coffee Growers Association. The Cocoa Industry Board will oversee the distribution of benefits to affected cocoa farmers in five parishes.