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Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Donovan Stanberry, has called on players in the agriculture sector to invest in insurance coverage as a critical part of doing business.
He noted that adequate insurance is important for the sector to survive and become more efficient.
“For too long, we have looked at insurance in this country as something that Government provides. So, we budget for fertiliser, we budget for irrigation water, we budget for pesticide, we budget for land preparation and nobody budgets for insurance. If we can change the culture, then we would have been able to deal with the trauma and the shocks of disasters,” Mr. Stanberry stated.
The Permanent Secretary, who was addressing the official launch of Hurricane Preparedness Business Week today (May 17) at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices in Kingston, informed that the Ministry was in discussions with the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to develop a model for parametric insurance for the sector.
The move will ensure that there is a mechanism in place to respond to the recovery needs of farmers immediately after a disaster strikes. “The experience has been overtime that because we don’t have that mechanism, we spend so much time to do assessments, and sometimes it is difficult to come up with objective and quick assessments,” he noted.
He said that over the years, farmers have been known to give exaggerated figures for their losses, during restorative efforts, in anticipation of a huge payout. This, he said, has resulted in a lot of time wasted as it usually takes months to assess, calculate, reject and verify the numbers put forward.
“We want to solve this problem once and for all and by coming up with a parametric model (we will be able to do this). The beauty of it is that you set the parameters, so if the trigger is a wind speed of a certain level, once that has been objectively recorded and verified by weather stations, there’s an automatic payout and people know beforehand precisely what they are getting,” he explained, noting that farmers will be required to pay a premium.
The Permanent Secretary stated that the Ministry was ready to work hand in hand with the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) to prepare the sector for disasters. “We are systematically positioning the sector to adapt and to accept disaster as a reality and mainstream it in our planning so that we have a better chance of survival. The worse disaster we could ever face is the collapse of the sector as a result of a large natural disaster,” he stated.
In the meantime, Mr. Stanberry said the Ministry was addressing a number of issues, which continue to affect the sector, including lack of access to irrigation water, and was strengthening the irrigation unit at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to address the problem.
“We have published manuals on water use and in fact we, just last month, signed an agreement with the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) for a programme to look at innovative approaches to agriculture that focuses on things like rainwater harvesting,” he informed.
Director General in the ODPEM, Ronald Jackson, in his remarks, stated that while the agriculture sector has made several improvements over the years in terms of disaster mitigation and preparedness, there are a number of new approaches, which must be adopted.
He advised that one such initiative is the development of a shelter management programme to secure animals and reduce the health threats as a result of animal carcasses after a disaster.
“We have to work with our farmers to establish mechanisms to ensure that their livestock is secured during a hurricane or any major disaster, whether it is unfettering them or establishing a barn facility.within each parish location where we can secure them,” he said.
Hurricane Preparedness Business Week, from May 17 to 21, is being organised by ODPEM in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. The week of activities, which include workshops and training programmes in disaster mitigation and preparedness for staff of the Ministry, is to sensitise stakeholders within the sector about the need to prepare for hurricanes.