The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be providing initial assistance of some $200 million to assist farmers, who were severely affected during the passage of Hurricane Sandy last week, in addition to fertiliser and other inputs to facilitate replanting.
This was disclosed by Minister of State in the Ministry, Hon. Ian Hayles on Oct. 29, during a tour of several farms located in the parish of Portland, to get a firsthand look at the damage sustained during the storm.
Estimates indicate that close to 31,000 farmers across the island have been affected by the hurricane, with some 3,000 hectares of crops affected. The damage to the country’s agricultural sector is estimated at close to $2 billion.
“In terms of the budget within the Ministry of Agriculture, we are doing some reallocation, anywhere between $150 million to $200 million, in terms of starting the process of assisting the farmers across this country,” Mr. Hayles said.
In addition, he informed that the Ministry will be procuring fertiliser and planting material for farmers especially in the eastern parishes, noting that these are some of the most important things needed at this time.
In terms of assistance to commercial farmers, the State Minister said the Government will be looking to cut interest rates in order to allow them to get back into production as soon as possible.
Mr. Hayles indicated that measures are also being devised to assist banana farmers, who have not been contributing to the Catastrophe Fund. The fund was set up in 2007 to help with the speedy recovery of the island's banana industry in the wake of natural disasters.
“We know that some of the banana farmers and farmers in general are not under the Catastrophe Fund. One of the things is that we are also meeting with the European Union (EU) in terms of getting some funds, over $10 million, in terms of subsidising those farmers, who are not under the Catastrophe Fund,” he said.
He assured that those farmers, who have been contributing to the Catastrophe Fund will be dealt with “early and efficiently."
In the meantime, Mr. Hayles is encouraging farmers to contact their local Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) office to report any damage sustained.
“The role of the Government, in terms of the Ministry of Agriculture, is to be proactive going forward. I am appealing to all the farmers, come to the RADA office, find your extension officer, let us have correct, proper documentation (of the damage sustained). It is critical… that we have a report that is fulsome that we can start executing in terms of distribution," he said.
He informed that RADA officers are in the field collecting the relevant data, which is needed to assist the affected farmers.
The State Minister said that preliminary estimates show that the passage of Hurricane Sandy has dealt a devastating blow to the country’s agricultural sector.
For his part, Member of Parliament, Western Portland, Hon. Daryl Vaz, said a collaborative approach is critical in going forward in ensuring that assisted is given to all of those in need.
The Agriculture State Minister, along with RADA officials, visited several farms on Portland including, banana, coconut, and poultry, and spoke with farmers.