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Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke has said that a decision had been taken to begin the distribution of Hurricane Ivan benefits to farmers in Portland, St. Thomas and St. Mary before moving on to the severely hit parishes of Manchester and St. Elizabeth.
Mr. Clarke, who was speaking in Parliament yesterday (Feb.15), explained that since farmers in Manchester and St. Elizabeth had received assistance after the passage of Hurricane Charley in August and because of the short period of time between the two hurricanes, a decision was taken to first assist farmers in the other parishes.
A total of 2,474 farmers in the two parishes, in addition to Westmoreland and Hanover, benefited from $12.25 million in vouchers for the purchase of agricultural inputs after Charlie.
Mr. Clarke was responding to questions tabled in the House of Representatives by Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture, J.C. Hutchinson as to why farmers in Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth had not yet received agricultural assistance.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Minister further informed that a total of 3,752 vouchers valued at $18.7 million had been distributed to farmers in Portland, St. Thomas and St. Mary up to the week ending January 22. He noted that Portland and St. Mary were also listed as severely affected parishes.
“The distribution programme under Hurricane Ivan relief is however picking up pace with more farmers benefiting in other parishes,” he said, adding that the disbursement of vouchers had also begun in St. Ann, St. Catherine, St. Andrew, Clarendon, Trelawny, St. James, Manchester, St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland.
He informed that another 4,000 vouchers were recently received from the Office of National Reconstruction for islandwide distribution, which is to commence this week.
In addition, Mr. Clarke told the House, vouchers valued at $3,500 each and amounting to $29.2 million had been distributed to 8,346 poultry farmers island-wide, including those in the parishes of Clarendon, St. Elizabeth and Manchester.
He said farmers in these parishes had also benefited from assistance provided under the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) programme, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) programme and the United Way/Council of Voluntary Social Services/Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) initiative.
Meanwhile, Mr. Clarke informed, approximately 82,000 farmers had been verified by the Rural Agriculture Development Authority (RADA) as having genuine hurricane damage and losses out of a total of 117,698 farmers from whom reports were received. “To date, not all of the farmers verified have received benefits. We are however still in the process of collating information from the various agencies that have been involved in the relief and rehabilitation efforts in order to ascertain the beneficiaries,” he said.
The farmers should receive benefits by the end of next month.