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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton on(Oct. 23) outlined the assistance being provided by Government to farmers affected by Hurricane Dean, including the distribution of fertilizer under the $100 million fertilizer relief programme.
Dr. Tufton, who was responding to questions posed by former Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke in the House of Representatives, said “2,560 tonnes of fertilizer were ordered of which, we have distributed some 1,575.5 tonnes benefiting over 15,000 farmers in all parishes.”
He noted that there were a number of complaints from farmers relating to the method of distribution and in some cases a lack of transparency, and as a consequence, distribution was temporarily suspended in three parishes to allow for a review of the process. “In the case of St. Elizabeth for example, changes were made in relation to the distribution points to allow for greater efficiency and transparency,” he informed.
He said that the Government intends to review the distribution mechanism associated with future relief efforts of this nature, with a view of determining the most efficient method.
Turning to fisheries, Dr. Tufton said that $10 million was originally allocated to the sector, with $2 million for aquaculture; $3 million for beach clean-up; and $5 million for assistance to fishermen in relation to nets, mesh and other fishing gears. “The Ministry has since allocated an additional $5 million to assist fishermen. The assistance for fishermen is being allocated on a constituency basis in proportion to the reported levels of damage,” he told the Lower House.
This assistance, he said, is in keeping with plans for the modernisation of the sector, which in the first instance “will address a comprehensive overhaul of the facilities of our beaches such as storage, sanitary convenience, and appropriate infrastructure for fishermen to carry out their trade. This will be the first step in winning back the confidence of the fishermen.”
In relation to provisions for greenhouses, Dr. Tufton informed that the original allocation of $20 million has been augmented by an additional $11 million from the Institute for International Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
He added that the Government, in partnership with the USAID and IICA, has been collaborating with the Greenhouse Growers Association to review the design of greenhouses to ensure that “we can construct a model of greenhouses that is more resistance to hurricanes thus ensuring the sustainability of our future efforts.”
“Having now agreed with all the parties on this new design, we will now commence dispensing the assistance,” he stated.
In the meantime, Dr. Tufton also informed that $10 million has been disbursed to the Banana Trading Company for procurement and distribution of fertilizer to banana farmers in conjunction with the All Island Banana Growers Association.
A further $10 million was allocated for the distribution of seed to farmers and this is complemented by a US$100,000 donation from the Sandals Group. “The Ministry is now finalising a programme to procure and distribute seeds. The Ministry is also reviewing the procurement process to allow for speedier response in the future,” Dr. Tufton said.
He noted further that the Ministry, through its $50 million Fruit Tree Crop Programme, will provide assistance to farmers, who suffered losses to fruit tree holdings. “We are encouraging such farmers to come on board and avail themselves of the assistance,” Dr. Tufton said.