Agriculture ministry provides $3m relief for coffee farmers affected by fires
<p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); font-size: medium; font-family: Times New Roman; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-align: start; letter-spacing: normal;" class=""><span>Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Derrick Kellier (right) presents a cheque to coffee farmer, Jennifer McEwan, following a tour of several farms in East Rural St Andrew which were affected by fires in May 2015. The provision is part of the Government’s $25 million mitigation and rehabilitation intervention.</span></p><p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); font-size: medium; font-family: Times New Roman; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-align: start; letter-spacing: normal;" class=""><span> </span></p><br>

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – Thirty-five coffee farmers in East Rural St Andrew, whose crops were destroyed by bush fires last year, have received $3 million in relief support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to assist in restoring their livelihoods.

The provision includes grants of $30,000 for each acre of land scorched; seedlings and plants; fertilizers; and other inputs to assist with land preparation.

These allocations are part of the ministry's $25 million rehabilitation and mitigation programme for farmers who were affected by the fires in 2015, being implemented with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).    

The programme, which commenced last year, entails provisions for: the rehabilitation and replanting of coffee in the Blue Mountain Ridge - $18.5 million; rehabilitation and replanting of bananas and plantains destroyed in rural St Andrew - $1.5 million; and strengthening the sector's resilience against adverse drought and resulting fires in critical productive zones - $4.9 million.

Its implementation in East Rural St Andrew will be strengthened by the rehabilitation of 9.6 kilometres roadway, running from Mount Dawkins through New Gardens into Halls Delight, which is used by farmers residing in these communities.   

Speaking at a brief handing over ceremony in Guava Ridge, St. Andrew, for the 35 beneficiaries, following a tour of several farms in the area on January 13, portfolio Minister Derrick Kellier, said, to date, over 14,000 seedlings have been distributed to 62 coffee farmers under the programme.

Additionally, he said 164 farmers, including those cultivating coffee, and others planting crops such as bananas and plantains, who were also affected, have also received 555 bags of fertilizer.

In noting the significant losses resulting from the May 2015 fires, the Minister said the initiatives being undertaken are consistent with the Government's commitment to restoring the farmers' livelihoods and economic stability within their communities.  

He commended the farmers' resilience, demonstrated by their undertaking restoration of their farms, while reminding them to use proper land preparation methods when cultivating.

“We want to encourage you farmers to continue to work as diligently as you have been. We are encouraged by what we have seen today, in terms of the growth and development of the (coffee) plants,” he said.

Expressing gratitude to the Ministry and RADA, coffee farmer, Carmen McCarty, said she will be using the provisions to restore areas of her farm which were affected by the fire.

“All of my coffee was gone and it was so bad. But by the help of God, he (has) kept me (going),” she said.

For his part, farmer, Denzel Rodney, who hails from the community of Flamstead, said the assistance will enable him to prepare the outstanding acre of his two and a half acre property which he said was unable to replant in the fire's aftermath, and was optimistic that “things will get better over time.”   

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