JIS News

General Manager of the Banana Board, Janet Conie, said the agency will be working assiduously to facilitate the early recovery of farmers affected by the passage of Hurricane Sandy.

Speaking to JIS News following a recent tour of banana farms in St. Mary,

Mrs. Conie said the Board will be working very closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to ensure that resuscitation efforts are put in place as soon as possible “so that we will not have a very long period of decline in the supply to the domestic market and to our one export market, which is to Cayman”.

She noted that, in some instances, the level of damage was such that farmers could recover very quickly, once they receive the necessary inputs and support.

“Banana resuscitation works best when it is done as quickly as possible. If you allow things to dry out, if you allow desiccation to set in, and this allows pests to come in then you end up with a much greater loss. So what we are trying to do is facilitate the earliest possible recovery,” she informed.

Mrs. Conie said the Board is at the stage of gathering information, and “we’ll look at the resources we have, and we will look at the systems we have in place to fast track, as much as possible, the programme that we want to put in place."

She noted that the level of damage to the banana industry was “devastating”, with many farmers losing up to 100 per cent of their crops.

“We looked at less than 10 farms in St. Mary and what we saw was 100 per cent damage in most of those farms. This means that we (need to) have a whole resuscitation programme from the scratch coming up," she said.

Mrs. Conie informed that farmers, who have been contributing to the Catastrophe Fund, will receive assistance through that facility.

She noted, however, that given the extent of damage, more resources will be needed. As such, she said, the Ministry of Agriculture will be working to secure external funding and “along, with what we have, we hope to revamp our rehabilitation programme to do what’s best [for our farmers”.

The Catastrophe Fund, which is a little over $50 million, is managed by the Banana Board andwas established in 2007 to help with the speedy recovery of the island’s banana industry in the wake of natural disasters.

During a tour of farms in Portland yesterday (October 29), State Minister for Agriculture, Hon. Ian Hayles, gave the assurance that farmers, who contribute to the fund “will be dealt with early and efficiently."

The latest estimates indicate that close to 31,000 farmers across the island have been affected by Hurricane Sandy, with some 3,000 hectares of crops affected. The damage to the country’s agricultural sector is estimated at close to $2 billion.