The Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Floyd Green, says the Government will be seeking to address the issue of river training as a mitigation tool to prevent crop losses from flooding.
The recent heavy rains and some river breaches caused widespread flooding, resulting in some 2,955 hectares of crop losses, valued at approximately $2.5 billion and impacting thousands of farmers.
Crops lost include legumes, vegetables, condiments, cereal, plantains, fruits, Irish and sweet potatoes, bananas, yam, cassava and sorrel.
Overall losses for livestock amounted to some $38.9 million with a total of approximately 780 farmers being affected.
Addressing members of the media during a recent tour of flood-damaged areas in St. Thomas, the Minister said consideration is being given to developing a river-training programme.
“What has come into sharp focus is that we will have to work with other ministries – the Ministries of Economic Growth and Job Creation, and Local Government and Rural Development – to really look at the issue of river training and the development of a consistent river-training programme,” he said.
Noting that periods of intense rainfall are a feature of climate change, Minister Green said a programme of this nature is important to protect the agriculture sector.
“We are going to be working with ministries, along with the climate change department, to see how we can get some resources to see if we can put more into river training, especially in parishes like St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary where we have seen significant losses,” he added.
Also on the tour were officials from the Ministry and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
Farms in South and West Albion, Phillipsfield, Wheelerfield and Plantain Garden River Agro Park in the parish were visited. A tour of Serge Island farms was also conducted.
“There have been tremendous losses across all crop types, including livestock. The river broke its banks across the parish and would have wiped out fields and pastures and affected our farmers in a very serious way. We have spoken to the farmers to encourage, motivate and reassure them that the Government understands their plight and is working to ensure that they have some reprieve,” the Minister said.
The Ministry is providing a $646.9-million support package for farmers affected by the recent heavy rains, to restart planting as quickly as possible.
The support programme will be focused on the parishes that experienced the greatest losses. These include Manchester, St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine, St. Thomas, Clarendon and St. Andrew.