Farmers to Receive Relief Vouchers Today


Farmers in the parishes of Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, Hanover and Manchester are first in line to receive vouchers today (October 8), which are being disbursed to aid their rebuilding efforts, following the damage sustained by the agricultural sector during Hurricane Ivan four weeks ago.
Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke made the disclosure at a media briefing this morning at the Ministry’s Old Hope Road offices.
He informed that assistance to affected farmers “will be provided in kind by the issuing of specially prepared vouchers, redeemable at distributors of agricultural products islandwide”.
Besides the four parishes set to receive vouchers, based on their evaluation as being the worst affected, the farmers in the other parishes will also be recipients of vouchers in the week ahead.
The Minister explained that the Ministry was working in tandem with a number of agricultural-based entities and their respective retail outlets to “make available the necessary inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals to farmers at the most competitive rates”.
Mr. Clarke pointed out that the vouchers given to farmers could be exchanged at any agricultural outlet of their choice for the stipulated value.
The Recovery Fund of $220 million for the agricultural sector, of which the voucher disbursement is a critical element, was announced recently by Prime Minister P. J. Patterson.
The Office of National Reconstruction (ONR), in collaboration with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), have been given the responsibility of managing the Fund.
Detailing the process farmers would be required to go through to secure vouchers, Mr. Clarke said that RADA “extension officers have been working in the field on a parish-by-parish basis to assess the hurricane damage, based on reports submitted to RADA by farmers as well as from various groups, including the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), and several relief organisations”.
He pointed out that to date, RADA has verified the names of 7,000 affected farmers from approved lists from organisations, such as the JAS, and has made recommendations to the ONR for relief assistance based on the assessments.
The Minister stressed that vouchers issued by the ONR would only be redeemable for agricultural supplies, adding that a structured plan has been implemented to prevent fraudulent practices.
“Beneficiaries will be required to sign for vouchers distributed to them by our RADA extension officers, as well as sign at the ‘point of sale’, in an effort to ensure transparency and accountability in the exchange of vouchers for goods,” he told the journalists.
“We have also been in close collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and the ONR to include various security features on the vouchers, and RADA has advised distributors how to determine that the vouchers presented are valid,” he added.

JIS Social