$2 billion needed to restore agricultural sector from storm damageThursday, September 23, 2021
BY ALPHEA SUMNER
THE Government says it will have to spend approximately $2 billion to restore the agricultural sector, which took a $1.7- billion hit from tropical storms Grace and Ida in August.
Portfolio Minister Audley Shaw announced yesterday that $250 million will be provided for immediate support from the ministry's current budget, but that additional funding will be sought through the finance ministry to provide full support to the sector.
He told the House of Representatives that 4,594 hectares of crops were lost, impacting 17,823 farmers.Livestock farming, he said, also suffered severe damage with losses of approximately $60.8 million, impacting 87,463 animals, and 3,577 farmers across the island. The most significant loss was poultry (broilers and layers) valued at $23.1 million.
The storms also caused significant damage, estimated at $150 million, to farm roads and irrigation networks, protected structures, greenhouses, and catchments. The parishes of St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, St James, St Ann, Manchester, St Elizabeth, and St Catherine were the most affected.
Immediate assistance, said the minister, will include a parametric rain, drought, wind and insurance policy for the sector, including fisherfolk, through GK Insurance. “The ministry, in supporting the introduction of the insurance policy, has provided $5 million to incentivise farmers and fisherfolk to subscribe to the parametric crop and livestock insurance scheme. The funds will be used to subsidise the initial premium for the first 1,000 farmers who sign up for the GK Weather Protect Insurance coverage. Of the 1,000 farmers, $3,500 each will be allocated for the first 700 males and $5,000 each for the first 300 females and youth below the age of 29,” Shaw explained. At the same time, crop support totalling $70 million will see the allocation of seeds and other planting materials, pesticides, and other inputs to get farmers back into production, the minister said. Another $30 in support is to go towards the poultry and small ruminant industries.
Shaw noted that of those amounts, $28 million has been earmarked for distribution through Members of Parliament to 29 constituencies which have been identified with significant damage. Each MP is to receive $750,000 to assist farmers in these areas. “A further 13 constituencies have been identified with less substantial damage, and these Members of Parliament will receive $500,000 each. The remaining $71.7 will be disbursed under the recovery programmes being executed by the Rural Agricultural Development Agency,” Shaw outlined.
He said the Government will also spend $100 million on fertiliser for farmers who have been feeling the pinch of fertiliser costs, which impacts production. This should see a 15 per cent reduction in the price for four select products that are most widely used by the farmers.“This price reduction will be applied at the point of purchase to registered farmers islandwide for a period effective October 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021, or until the $100 million is exhausted,” he advised, noting that the agriculture ministry will be working with Newport Fersan Jamaica, the sole manufacturer of fertiliser in the island, as well as importers of fertiliser on the initiative.
He said the ministry has also held a series of meetings with the company regarding the high cost of fertiliser, and that it has agreed to import three new fertiliser blends for the market, which will be less expensive but as effective as current blends.