3,000 Coffee Farmers in St. Thomas Affected By Hurricane


About 3,000 farmers who sell coffee to the Blue Mountain Coffee Co-operative (BMCC) in Cedar Valley, St. Thomas have suffered losses as a result of flooding and strong winds associated with Hurricane Ivan.
“All the farmers in all the districts have suffered some level of damage, which is going to have a short, medium and long term impact on the coffee sector in the parish of St. Thomas,” Manager of the BMCC, O’Neil Blake, told JIS News in an interview.
He said that approximately 1,092 hectares (2,700 acres) of coffee plants were damaged, and pointed out that some of the farmers were about to reap their crop, since most of the beans would have matured by September, October and November.
“The Co-operative expected to get some 60,000 boxes of cherry coffee this year, and we see presently that the minimum damage to those farmers is some 40 per cent. We will now obtain some 40,000 boxes from the farmers,” Mr. Blake noted.
He said that in some instances, farmers had lost their total crop, while others about 50 per cent of their crop. He added that even though some of the trees were not showing any signs of dying, farmers were concerned that they might wither within the next three to four weeks and eventually die.
In the meantime, he said the Co-operative would seek to implement recovery programmes that would help farmers to “get back into production as quickly as possible and with the least difficulty”.
“The farmers at this time are feeling down and are encountering major difficulties,” he said, pointing out that some of the farms were still inaccessible because of landslides and high volume of water.
Mr. Blake said that currently, Extension Officers of the BMCC were providing power saws to assist farmers to clear their fields of fallen trees and other debris. He said the officers were also using the opportunity to distribute insurance claim forms as well as assisting farmers to fill out those forms, so they could be properly compensated.
He pointed out that the coffee Co-operative was expected to lose some US$2.5 million in export earnings for the 2004/05 crop year.

JIS Social