Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, says the recent heavy rains across the island have affected some 12,000 farmers and caused damage estimated at nearly $2 billion.
Mr. Green, who toured sections of St. Elizabeth with executives from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) on October 31, said the Ministry is continuing to do an assessment with the hope of getting some assistance to farmers as quickly as possible.
“We continue to do the assessment. As you know, it is a moving target,” the Minister told JIS News in an interview.
“The southern parishes have been the hardest hit, and these include Clarendon, St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine, St. Andrew, Westmoreland, Manchester, and St. Thomas. We are looking to see what the farmers can salvage and also what emergency funds we can provide. We also have to look at our budget to see what’s available,” he added.
The Minister said that among the crops lost were legumes, vegetables, condiments, fruits, cereal, plantains, bananas, Irish and sweet potatoes, yam, cassava and sorrel.
He added that based on preliminary data, the loss for livestock is estimated at some $30.4 million among 755 farmers. “There was also the loss from poultry – 414 broilers and layer birds – at an estimated value of $12 million,” he noted.
The Minister further said that teams from RADA are now on the ground in the affected parishes, meeting with farmers so as to have personal interactions while carrying out their assessment.
“Our farmers are very resilient people and will soon be getting back on their feet. They are extraordinarily strong and simply just want the opportunity to continue doing what they do best, and they know the Ministry will be there with them every step of the way,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Green said that praedial larceny continues to be a major problem and that the Ministry has been doubling down on its efforts to curtail the problem.
“Praedial larceny is one of the biggest threats to the agricultural sector. We are taking praedial larceny seriously. Here at the Ministry we have already taken steps in strengthening our praedial larceny prevention unit and have gotten the police to treat it as a major crime… like shooting… like rape… so that the resources can be put in place to fight the problem,” the Minister said.
Mr. Green explained that the strategy is to build out a praedial larceny division in all the hotspots where the thieves will have a difficult time in carrying out their acts and can be intercepted and apprehended with swift precision.
“We will not relent…we will be taking the fight to the criminals. We understand that this is organised crime that we are dealing with and so we have to prepare ourselves so we can protect our hard-working farmers from praedial larceny,” the Minister said.