Young farmers pleased with life, health insurance plans for agri sector

Young farmers pleased with life, health insurance plans for agri sector

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, February 18, 2021

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SOME young farmers have expressed satisfaction with what they termed the 'long-awaited inclusivity and recognition', following the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries partnership with Sagicor Jamaica to offer registered farmers and fishers a health and life insurance plan for the first time.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green, who recently made the announcement in Parliament, referred to farmers and fishers as food heroes, saying the insurance plans will secure their health and well-being.

Twenty-nine-year-old Citerina Atkins, co-founder of Gerty's Argo-Produce in New Hall District, Manchester, told the Jamaica Observer last week that she is pleased the Government is looking into insurance for the players in the agriculture industry.

“I am satisfied with the suite of services that were introduced. It is inclusive of all age groups and I'm sure we will see a number of young farmers and fisherfolks taking advantage of this service. I'm even anticipating that there will be a vast increase in the number of registered farmers and fishers who are looking to benefit from the service.

“However, I'm looking forward to getting more details on each plan because though it may be affordable for some there will still be persons who have to forgo these services due to limited finances. I'm hoping there are plans in place to access the take up of the services and address these issues,” said Atkins, who plants sweet potato, Irish potato, yam, sweet pepper and Scotch bonnet pepper on 20 acres of land.

The programme, dubbed 'AgriCare', includes a Group Major Medical Plan, a Full House Plan, a Group Critical Illness Plan, a Group Personal Accident Plan and a Group Life Insurance Plan.

Atkins, a 2020 awardee for the Prime Ministers National Youth Award for Excellence in Agriculture and Argo-Processing, has already begun considering what suits her best, ahead of the March 1 launch.

“The Full House Plan is the most appealing to me as a youngster because of the array of benefits that are laid out under this plan. The Group Life Plan also seems interesting. That being said, I am interested in seeing the details for the plans including the cost of the Full House Plan.

“There were instances where I had to shoulder the cost of primary medical care and even neglected seeking medical attention because of the financial burden. Having insurance to offset these costs is an added benefit because it makes things easier on the pocket,” said Atkins.

Surgery, hospitalisation and treatment for chronic diseases will be covered under the Group Major Medical Plan, while the Full House Plan ensures that farmers and fishers will have access to money that can be utilised to purchase certain primary care benefits.

The Group Critical Illness Plan provides coverage on diagnosis of certain critical illnesses, and the Group Personal Accident Plan sees that the insured or their dependents have certain benefits in the event that they are involved in an accident.

The Group Life Insurance Plan provides coverage in the event that the insured dies.

Lauding Sagicor Jamaica, Atkins added: “The agriculture industry will benefit from the increase involvement of the private sector because the private sector's contribution to the industry is always a plus and the more inclusive farmers and fishers are in the formal sector, the more equipped we are to contribute to nation-building,” she said. She added that there is still a long way to go for farming and fishing to be considered real jobs. “It really has to do with the mindset of the people. However, this is a step forward.”

Her business partner Roike Campbell, a 31-year-old Manchester farmer, shares her view.

“Private sector entities should definitely partner with the agriculture ministry to offer plans and benefits to assist farmers and the fishing industry with financing, training, and marketing,” he said, noting that he has “vision problems” which causes the plan to appeal to him even more.

“I wear glasses sometimes to enhance my vision. Regarding to the Group Personal Accident plan, it is important I have this insurance as well. As a farmer, I am at risk of using dangerous tools and chemicals every day and that can cause accidents. This insurance can serve as a financial support in case of an unexpected accident or injury. I also want to ensure that my dependents and relatives can take care of funeral expenses without any hassle or financial burden on them in case of an expected event happens that may cause death,” said Campbell.

The farmer of three years added: “This plan will definitely cater to me. My health matters. It is important that I have an insurance that will cater to my health in times of illness.”

Campbell said he hopes the Government continues on this path, where farming and fishing aren't merely after thoughts, but equal to that of any other profession.

“Agriculture plays a vital role in the economy of any country. Therefore, agriculture is the backbone of the economy and it is the only area of the economy that provides food. I think the Government should ensure that the process of applying for loans for farmers and fisher folk should be easier and less time consuming, and create different criteria to cater to the needs of the different types of farmers.”

Twenty-seven-year-old LaFrance Gayle, also a 2020 awardee for the Prime Minister's National Youth Award for Excellence in Agriculture and Argo-Processing, was introduced to farming at age eight.

A nod to the AgriCare programme, the livestock farmer told the Observer: “Life insurance is a good plan to help young farmers like myself. As a youngster, agriculture gives the opportunity to be an entrepreneur.

“I think it's best to be insured so if anything happens to you, at least you would get back some help.”

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