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WATCH: Farmers counting losses, predict rise in vegetable prices

Observer staff reporter

Friday, September 03, 2021

NEW FOREST, Manchester — Farmers in Manchester and St Elizabeth are counting their losses following crop devastation by wind and heavy rain associated with tropical storms Grace and Ida in recent weeks.

They are predicting higher prices for vegetables, spices, and other crops in the next few weeks and say they will struggle to rehabilitate damaged crops and replant due to the high cost of farm inputs such as fertiliser and herbicides.

They are urging the authorities to provide help quickly.

Owen “McKoy” Burton, Conrad Murray, and Vivian Morgan shared similar concerns when they spoke with the Jamaica Observer during a tour of farms in New Forest, southern Manchester, close to the St Elizabeth border on Monday.

Burton, a small farmer, said he lost $40,000 worth of crops, including tomatoes and sweet pepper, at neighbouring Plowden during the passage of Ida. He said the experience was especially painful since he had raised money to buy inputs by doing day's work for other farmers.

“A juggle mi juggle day work and buy the mould [fertiliser] and dem thing deh…” he said.

Murray, who farms on a much larger scale, said he lost acres of crops due to wind damage and flooding.

He said Tropical Storm Grace caused “significant damage”, because he was forced to reap some crops prematurely. He also had to dump large quantities of callaloo because of wind damage.

“When the [callaloo] leaf buss up you cyaan really sell that,” he explained.

He said flooding from Ida destroyed vegetable suckers and scallion fields.

Murray is now looking to bounce back, but the cost of fertiliser is making that difficult.

“What happen when you have heavy rain is that your nutrition programme would have been messed up, because you put fertiliser and with the consistent rain it would mean that nutrients [would] sink in below the root zone, so all the farmers in this area, including myself, have to think about [refertilising],” he said.

“The problem we face in this area… is [that it is] almost $10,000 fi a 100-pound bag a mould. The average small farmer uses about five bags per month on his field, so [he] is looking at over $48,000 just to start back over,” he added.

“Scallion will increase, pepper will be increased, and tomato. Most vegetables will be increased. Ground provision might not be so bad, because it got some protection…” Murray said.

He emphasised that farmers immediately need herbicides and fertiliser to resurrect damaged farms and replant and urged the Ministry of Agriculture and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority to move quickly with assistance to farmers.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green had told the Jamaica Observer last week that the damage to farmlands was being assessed so that there can be a crafting of a recovery programme.

Morgan is still calculating his losses with damage to most of his farm.

“It [flooding] wash through a lot of crops beetroot and thyme damaged the melon, so that's basically the damage for me, but a lot of people have [further] damage. It's a big loss… Farming things is very expensive now – like fertiliser, spray, grass, water expensive. It's a lot we lose. When you lose a crop right now it takes you a while before you can go back, unless you have money put down,” he said.

In the Junction area of St Elizabeth, Everton and Daylon Holness told the Observer they lost melons, cucumbers, and about an acre of tomatoes on one of their six farms.

“It [wind and rain] burn up the leaves and it make the tomatoes false, so this is the problem weh we a have,” said Everton Holness

“Cucumber round deh suh, more than an acre, the seed dem just spoil back inna the earth,” said Daylon Holness.