Commercial banana, plantain farmers get deadline
Must register by March 31 to benefit from Catastrophe Fund

Commercial banana and plantain farmers will be able to benefit from the $38-million Catastrophe Fund established by the Banana Board if they register by March 31.

The Catastrophe Fund supports the recovery of farmers in the industry affected by natural disasters.

General manager of the Banana Board, Janet Conie told JIS News that the board has been visiting communities to encourage registration. "We have been going out and educating farmers about the fund so more of them can participate. Participation has been increasing over the last five years. We are hoping that more farmers will take part so that where there is major damage, they can benefit," she said.

"It triggers only when there is a catastrophe, and this happens when 50 per cent of the area in production is damaged. The area is not necessarily an individual farm, it can be a parish," Conie added.

The Catastrophe Fund was developed mainly for export farmers in 2007, seeded with funding from the European Union valued at $31 million and funds from farmers valued at $7 million.

"We actually didn't use the fund until 2009, and we are operating it until today. The fund is growing. We have made four payouts so far for Tropical Storm Nicole, Hurricane Sandy, a flood in 2016, and of course we paid out last year after the tropical storm," Conie said.

Based on the operation of the fund, a catastrophe is regarded as a great and sudden disaster in a large number of groves in a wide area. It may result mainly from local cyclonic winds, storm surges and/or floods from continual rainfall.

"Climate change is the biggest thing now, and you know bananas are directly affected by that — but that has always been the case, even before climate change. If it gets too little water, it doesn't produce well. If it gets too much water, it easily affects the yield and quality if too much water sits in the root. Weather has always been a problem and so the Banana Board came into being for this very thing," Conie said.

The Banana Board is a statutory body enacted by Parliament in 1953 under the Banana Board Act. The board regulates all aspects of banana production and harvesting, quality standards, as well as risk management. It also manages the standards of production, which include crop agronomy and standards for disease control.

"We are also responsible for the value-added side because production is pulled by markets and markets are not just for fresh food. Bananas have...myriad..value-added products," Conie stated.

To register for the Catastrophe Fund, banana and plantain farmers should have at least one acre or one hectare of land.

"It has to be commercial [and] something that you live by, where you sell bananas and operate at the recommended standards for commercial production and you file what we call a production return for the year prior," she explained.

Farmers interested in registering will also have to pay a fee based on how many acres or hectares comprise their farms.

"It's $1,500 per acre if you registered last year. If you didn't register last year it is $2,000 per acre. If you want it in metric, persons who registered last year paid $3,750 per hectare. Those who did not will pay $5,000 per hectare," she said.

To meet the criteria for registration, fields will be assessed using the Global Positioning System (GPS)/Geographic Information System (GIS) validation as well as the board's extension officers.

To complete the registration process, banana and plantain farmers can visit the Banana Board's office or visit any parish office of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority.

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