'Big blow' from Grace, Ida being assessedSaturday, August 28, 2021
BY KASEY WILLIAMS
THE agriculture sector has been dealt a “big blow” following the passage of tropical storms Grace and Ida less than two weeks apart.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the southern parts of the island were the areas mostly affected.
“Seeing that things were really looking up for the agriculture sector, based on the growth that we had in the last quarter, we are really trying to keep the momentum [going]. This is a big blow, especially [Tropical Storm] Grace...[and] with the reports coming from the southern parts of the island, but within a week we should have a better picture in terms of quantity [of damage] and then we will outline a programme of recovery,” he said.
Teams from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) are now carrying out an assessment of the impact of the storms.
“We have already sent out teams, despite the weather. Our agro-invest team has already been off into the agro-parks [to see] what they can preliminarily assess, and some of the RADA teams are out. Clearly, in some areas, it is more difficult [to assess],” said Green.
The minister said the assessment will continue through the Government's no-movement days.
“We have always said to the teams [that their] safety comes first, so they have to be cautious. I know, based on the discussions I have been having since [yesterday] morning, that the teams are out. In fact, we plan to work straight through the weekend. We are not going to allow the lockdown days to stop us because we want to get, as early, the best picture as possible in relation to the assessment because that's the first process before crafting a programme of recovery,” said Green.
In respect of the urgent need to care for livestock, fish or other animals or crops, individuals ith these duties are exempt from the no-movement restriction.
Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) President Lenworth Fulton said the devastation is very “awkward” for farmers.
“I do know that there will be massive damage, especially to the vegetables in the low-lying areas… Coming from the wind damage last week, this is very awkward for us now. However, the staff have not gotten a chance to do any estimation as yet, because it continues to fall,” he told the Observer.
“The low-lying areas in Clarendon and the St Catherine plain, I can tell you there will be a major onion loss [in] Bernard Lodge and those areas, because there are a lot of onions to be reaped now.
“People were planting sweet corn, [so] I think there is some damage to the sweet corn as well,” he added.
Manchester and St Elizabeth have been hit hard by Tropical Storm Ida.
“[It] rain[ed] heavily down there as well, so unlike the first tropical storm, [Grace], where St Elizabeth and Manchester were not badly hit, now I am seeing rain-damaging places like Duff House where there is an agro-park. I expect to see major damage in southern St Elizabeth where those farmers have been getting significant showers since yesterday [Thursday],” said Fulton.
He estimated that crops that were ready for reaping will be most affected.
“There will be significant damage to things like melon, cantaloupe, carrot and all these things which will be coming in now for reaping. We will have significant damage there as well,” he said.
However, the JAS president believes the farmers will bounce back in time for Christmas.
“They will bounce back because it's now just about going into September, so they will have enough time to replant the vegetables and so on for Christmas. Remember they are coming off damage from [Tropical Storm Grace], between $300 to $500 million in losses, and then this, so yes, they will find themselves in a bad spot,” he said.
He said, too, that farmers will need assistance from the Government.
“People who do chicken and all of that will continue to lose, because with storms like this it affects those things as well, so there will be significant losses. Luckily for us, we have not yet begun the major Irish potato planting programme that begins in about October. But, with this rain, it might set back the land preparations. I think we will bounce back because we have enough time to plant back our crops, but they are going to need some help from the Government,” said Fulton.