JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands on (Aug. 28) received the first batch of 50,000 bags of fertilizer, under the $225 million agricultural sector hurricane relief project, for farmers involved in domestic food crop, banana, fruit tree crop and cocoa production.
Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke; Ministry officials; representatives of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA); the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), and the Coffee Industry Board, were on hand for the dispatching of the different blends of fertilizers by Newport-Fersan (Jamaica ) Limited, at its Wherry Wharf complex at Newport East.
Mr. Clarke pointed out that of the batch, 10,000 bags would be presented to coffee farmers, while the remainder would be dispatched shortly to farmers involved in other types of production. Efforts will be concentrated on the south coast in the parishes of Manchester and St. Elizabeth, which were severely affected by Hurricane Dean on August 19.
Farmers producing vegetables, root crops, plantains, orchard crops, and bananas for local consumption will benefit from fertilizer allocation, worth some $100 million. This will kick-start production in these areas, Minister Clarke told journalists.
“We hope to get these bags as quickly as possible to the farmers to get them back on track,” he emphasized.
Mr. Clarke informed that fisher folk would also receive assistance, as well as greenhouse farmers. The first cheque for these farmers would be presented to the Christiana Potato Growers’ Association in Manchester today, to assist potato farmers with the resuscitation of their greenhouses.
The Minister indicated that the Government had reached a concession rate of five per cent with Fersan, and that negotiations would continue to seek a lower rate.
He expressed concern over the excessive mark-up of prices on fertilizer, stating that “what has happened over time is that the mark-up that the farmers have been asked to bear is really out of whack with the price of fertilizer when it leaves here.”
“There are instances where a bag of fertilizer leaves Fersan at $1,600 per bag, and reaches the farmer at $3,000 per bag. The government is determined that something has to be done about that,” the Minister stressed.
Mr. Clarke also disclosed that a sum of $25 million that was associated with Hurricane Ivan, that had not been dispatched, would be made available for the current effort. “That has been worked out and we are moving now to get that into the hands of the farmers. We want to do it between now and next week,” he said.
In order to ensure equitable and transparent distribution of the fertilizer, RADA in conjunction with the JAS, will generate a list of farmers who sustained losses from Hurricane Dean.
Meanwhile, President of the JAS, Norman Grant said the initiative was well timed and needed, and was a demonstration of confidence in the farmers. “We intend to get it (fertilizer) as quickly as possible out there to the farmers,” he assured.

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