JIS News

Chief Technical Director for Special Projects in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Courtney Cole, says the Government’s Buy-Back Programme continues to safeguard the well-being of local farmers affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On Thursday (February 11), the Ministry, through the St. Elizabeth office of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), sought to purchase 10,000 pounds of tomatoes from farmers in the parish under the initiative.

This was done in response to a glut on the domestic market for the crop, which is being sold for between $35 and $40 per pound.

Mr. Cole told JIS News that prior to the pandemic, approximately 96 per cent of vegetables harvested were being sold to hotels and other entities in the tourism sector.

He noted, however, that COVID-19 has been impacting tourism and, as such, the Buy-Back Programme was established to boost food security and assist small farmers experiencing fallouts.

Mr. Cole advised that since the Programme’s implementation in early 2020, “we have been inputting resources to ensure that the farmers’ produce is taken off once it is [harvested], so that there is minimal wastage and the farm family can continue to be sustained”.

“The input from that resulted in farmers being able to come forward with the kind of production that we are seeing, and this is what we want, production, so that we have growth in the economy,” he added, while pointing out that the farmers remain resilient, despite the challenges.

Mr. Cole indicated that farmers are dedicated to supplying the domestic market and are preparing for the tourism sector’s resuscitation.

“The farmers can’t stop producing, because the tourist trade can come back at any time. It (tourism) will be in ascendency in a short time with the interventions that are taking place [globally] as [countries around] the world get used to the pandemic and learn to continue their economic activities,” he underscored.

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