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JIS News

Director General of the Coffee Industry Board (CIB), Christopher Gentles, says that, despite the industry sustaining estimated losses of $108 million during the passage of Tropical Storm Gustav, the greatest setback suffered by stakeholders, has been the damage to the road and drainage networks serving the sector.
He notes that the $108 million in losses represents about six percent of the total crop value, pointing out that: “since the storm, there has been an 80 per cent restoration of road access to farms. But some areas in and around Westphalia and Cinchona, in the Blue Mountains, are still inaccessible.”
Mr. Gentles told JIS News, that the Coffee Industry Board, is working closely with the National Works Agency (NWA), and the Ministry of Agriculture, to get the remaining roads open, as well as with the farmers, to reduce tree damage in order to keep them on the path to increased productivity.
Commenting on the current state of coffee farms in the wake of Tropical Storm Gustav, Mr. Gentles informed that damage to trees has been calculated at between five and 10 per cent of the estimated production for this year. He added, however, that this could increase if access to the damaged crops is delayed, a factor which he says could contribute to deterioration in the condition of trees.
“Tree conditions is the most important and costly aspect of coffee culture, as farmers need to quickly prune, remove damaged branches, and weed fields to reduce deterioration and yield decline. After three consecutive years of hurricane or storm damage, production levels for Blue Mountain and Highland Coffee are down, and we intend to reverse that,” he advised.
In order to achieve this, Mr. Gentles said the CIB will be working closely with the farmers to re-establish their full tree density of 800 per acre. Tree density, he informed, is currently down to approximately 500 trees per acre.
He said farmers will also be encouraged to use best practices to raise productivity levels from the current 40 boxes, to 80 boxes per acre. The CIB Executive explained that one way of achieving this, was increased and efficient use of fertilisers through application using a FERDIN pump. This, he explained, is a knapsack sprayer with a steel lance attached to the nozzle, that delivers liquid fertiliser below the soil surface. “This reduces wash-off and volatilisation, permitting instant absorption, unlike granular fertiliser,” he added.
“Another measure being looked at to increase productivity is integrated pest management to reduce the use of pesticides. We are currently in discussions with research partners in the region on the use of parasiticides. These are fungi or insects that destroy pests such as the deadly coffee berry borer,” Mr. Gentles outlined.
Insurance is another critical area, in light of the growing risk of hurricane damage. He explained that Jamaica was the last coffee-growing country in the region to receive insurance coverage for coffee.
“The Coffee Industry Board, is now in discussions with the World Bank on new methods of coverage. An option is parametric insurance, but which would take some time to implement due to its highly technical nature,” Mr. Gentles informed.