Green promises help for Portland farmers
GOLDEN VALE, Portland — Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green has assured farmers in Portland that he is moving to address their concerns about flood damage to their farms, roads that need repair, and the high cost of fertiliser.
During a tour of the parish on Wednesday, banana grower David Brown was among those who listed a litany of woes and appealed for help to stay afloat. He spoke of the challenge of paying labourers $4,000 or $5,000 a day, challenges in being paid on time for his produce, and his losses because of heavy rains over Christmas. But for Brown, the road is the biggest problem that needs to be solved.
“During the flooding, we lost a lot of topsoil and animals like pigs, cows and goats but the road is number one and we need some control or fixed prices on fertilisers. The road cost us a lot as we have to take a vehicle to take them to one point and then another from there and it cost us a whole lot,” he complained to the minister.
Green assured Brown that Member of Parliament (MP) for Portland Eastern, Ann-Marie Vaz had raised the issue of the state of the roads and the Government is working on solutions for farm roads across the country.
According to Green, the section of road along Golden Vale and Seaman’s Valley are among those that will be given priority.
“We are trying to programme it to be done in the next financial year which starts in April. It may be difficult to do it before that but, definitely, this year won’t pass without the road being fixed,” said the agriculture minister.
He also gave an update on work that has already been done in repairing farm roads in Bellevue, and area known for the production of where banana and coffee.
“The road was in an atrocious condition and it has been fixed,” said Green.
“We had a $600-million budget in this financial year and have done over 30 roads. We got an additional $200 million and we are now in the procurement process for another 17 roads and we will continue to ask the minister of finance to give us $1 billion dollars in the next financial year so we can help more communities like this in fulfilling their true potential,” Green added.
The agriculture minister also said that efforts are being made to provide access to fertiliser through the MP and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority.
“We are going to try and make some allocations as we know this is a big challenge. We will try and get the fertilisers in another week. We might have to get a more comprehensive programme for Portland,” Green said.
For Kenneth Campbell, a banana farmer at Seaman’s Valley farm, the recent flooding was his biggest problem. He said a river which runs at the back of his farm overflowed, damaging three of the six acres.
“I have been here five years now and last year this washed out two times and now again; but this is the worst. A river runs behind and some landslide come down and the river run over and damaged the bananas and plantains. I would love some assistance with a backhoe to clean the drain and the landslide,” he appealed.
Green, who acknowledged that banana farmers had tried several ways, including trenching, to prevent their crop from being inundated, said he will move to identify a long-term solution.
“We have to take a comprehensive approach and I am going to speak to the Prime Minister [Andrew Holness] and minister [with responsibility for works Everald] Warmington to see if we can jointly put some resources together for river training in this area,” he said.
“We want to see that our farmers are back up as [soon] as possible,” the minister added.