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Story Highlights

  • Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier is expressing satisfaction with the pace at which the agriculture sector is rebounding in the bread basket parish of St. Elizabeth.
  • Speaking in an interview with JIS News, Mr. Kellier said the farmers showed resilience and that the Government was pleased that the farms are once again up and running in a meaningful way.
  • In addition, Mr. Fulton is expecting that by June of this year, production levels in St. Elizabeth and in other areas which experienced severe drought last year should be back to normal.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier is expressing satisfaction with the pace at which the agriculture sector is rebounding in the bread basket parish of St. Elizabeth.

He was speaking against the background of the devastating effects of a prolonged period of drought last year and the assistance which his ministry gave to hundreds of farmers in the parish.

Speaking in an interview with JIS News, Mr. Kellier said the farmers showed resilience and that the Government was pleased that the farms are once again up and running in a meaningful way.

“The assistance of tanks and other adaptive aids such as hoses and….small drip irrigation systems…they have helped quite a lot and we have managed to pump a lot of production incentive funds into that area…particularly in the southern belt of the island in terms of fertilizers and chemicals,” Minister Kellier said.

He added that the hard work of the farmers has already borne fruit, with some products returning to the market in large volumes.

“We are seeing in the markets then, results of the kind of activity that they have been carrying on and I know they are feeling much better now because of the rapid response of the Ministry to the plight that they had with the back to back droughts of 2014 and 2015,” Mr. Kellier stated.

The Agriculture Minister said he remains optimistic that once the farmers experience good weather in 2016 and beyond, the agriculture sector will recover in a meaningful way and that the farmers can return to reaping the benefits of their hard work.

While not committing to a time frame in which total recovery of the agriculture sector is expected, Minister Kellier said there are other issues outside of the drought which continue to affect the sector.

“It is always a challenge to make that kind of determination because there are challenges with pest control…there are challenges with the Beet Army Worms…so you have to be very careful at making these predictions. Let us keep our fingers crossed that none of these pestilence come upon us this year. I believe that the bounce back will be felt later down in the year,” Minister Kellier said.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer, (CEO) of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, (RADA) Lenworth Fulton told JIS News that from all indications, farmers in the farming communities of St. Elizabeth have been making gradual progress in recovering from the effects of the drought of last year.

He said while production is not yet back at pre-drought levels, the farmers have been back in the fields planting fruits and vegetables and produce should be back in regular quantities in a few months.

“Our feedback from our officers and from farmers and stakeholders…it is more than tremendous. They are extremely happy that RADA was able to come in with timely assistance to get them back into production and the assistance valued quite a large sum-its millions of dollars from drums to fertilizers, seeds, chemicals that came at the right time to get them back into production,” Mr. Fulton said.

He stated that the government’s support for the agriculture sector in St. Elizabeth was aided by the fact that the drought broke late last year, which facilitated full scale planting by the farmers.

The RADA CEO, however admitted that things are not yet at a comfortable level, and pointed out that drought has returned to some areas.

“Some parts of St. Elizabeth are beginning to show dry spells again-as per usual for this time of the year. They…..will be climate smart by watching the weather before they go head….into production during this period,” Mr. Fulton stated.

In addition, Mr. Fulton is expecting that by June of this year, production levels in St. Elizabeth and in other areas which experienced severe drought last year should be back to normal.

Farmers in St. Elizabeth have been busy planting vegetables and fruits including cantaloupe, melon, thyme, scallion, lettuce, cassava, beet and carrot.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries distributed some 135 black water tanks to farmers in St. Elizabeth as part of a $5-Million national project to benefit farmers in drought affected communities.