Initiatives Implemented for Recovery of Agricultural Sector after Hurricane Dean


Since the new Government took over on September 11, the Ministry of Agriculture has implemented a number of initiatives for the recovery of the sector, which was severely impacted by the passage of Hurricane Dean in August.
The sector suffered an estimated loss of $3.7 billion, with domestic crops accounting for $904 million.
High on the agenda was the distribution of fertilizer to parishes hardest hit such as St. Elizabeth, Portland, Manchester and St. Catherine, so as to assist farmers to return their fields to productivity.
The Government announced that it would be contributing some $260 million to the recovery efforts, which would not only include fertilizer but seeds, fruit tree crop assistance, and support for the banana, coffee and the fisheries industries.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, handed over cheques totaling $31.5 million to greenhouse farmers, whose operations were damaged during Hurricane Dean. The cheques were provided through a collaborative effort involving the Ministry, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under its Rural Enterprise, Agriculture and Community Tourism (REACT) project.
The money will be used to provide physical inputs including greenhouses, locking mechanisms, roof and side material to the affected farmers, as well as strengthen the capability of greenhouse producers, by providing training and technical assistance in greenhouse engineering and operations management.
Considering that the banana industry is under constant threat from hurricanes and other natural events, the Government reported that it would be looking at an insurance facility for the industry, which would pre-determine the occurrence of natural disasters and make payments on that basis.
The Ministry, in collaboration with IICA, also agreed to undertake a study to examine the contribution of the agricultural sector to the economy. According to the official data, agriculture contributes six per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The Agriculture Minister and representatives of the Bodles Agricultural Research Station, among other entities, engaged in discussions to identify alternative feed for the livestock industry. “We are looking at a feedstock for livestock that could replace and complement the traditional methods of feeding as an alternative to dealing with the cost issues, which have been raised,” the Minister stated.
Dr. Tufton, in November, announced that the Ministry will be putting measures in place to replenish the country’s beef stock to meet demands in the dairy industry. “Over the next year or two, we will be looking at some methods to try and replenish as well as to try and get more stock into the island.we have in fact started some programmes at Bodles Research Station.”
As efforts intensified to fight the Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug, a laboratory was set up in Portland in December to produce the parasitoid wasps, which are the main weapons being employed in the fight against the disease.
Production of the wasp will begin in January, said Marina Young Senior, Plant Health Food Safety Specialist at the Ministry. She noted that the establishment of the laboratory will ensure that the country is able to produce the wasps, when the agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to supply the country with the parasites, expires at the end of December.
In addition to the setting up of the laboratory, the Ministry began distributing the lady bird beetle in the affected areas in Portland. Like the parasitoid wasp, the lady bird beetle is one of the natural enemies of the pink hibiscus mealy bug.
Still on pest control, the Plant Quarantine Unit warned travellers not to import poinsettia plants or else they will face fines up to $100,000. Chief Plant Quarantine Officer in the Plant Quarantine Unit, Shelia Harvey, explained that if these plants are brought into the country, then exotic pests and diseases can be transported into the island.
The Ministry of Agriculture also announced plans to implement a farmer-friendly marketing system. Minister of State, J.C. Hutchinson, said that the system will bring farmers into greater contact with exporters and wholesalers.
He noted that “for too long, farmers, wholesalers and exporters have not been communicating with each other and when there is a market need in many instances, the farming sector does not know about it, and oftentimes crops go to waste in the field since farmers don’t know where to sell their produce”.
“We are going to put in place a system where we are going to be that link to bring the farmer in direct contact with the wholesaler, the processor and the exporter,” Mr. Hutchinson stated.
Double Deuce Jamaica Limited, a new agro-processing company, was opened in St. Thomas in November. The company will promote Brand Jamaica through the export of authentic, high quality Jamaican products such as fruit juices, canned ackee and breadfruit slices. Owner and operator, James Chong, informed that the company will be targeting markets in New York and Canada and plans are being implemented to penetrate the United Kingdom market.

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