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Minister of State for Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Ian Hayles, says here are no plans to increase imports of agricultural produce in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

He said that despite the estimated $2 billion in damage to the sector, adequate foodstuff will be available to meet the needs of consumers.

“Let me make it quite clear, there will be no importation…in terms of the shortfall, the consumers of this country will have no problem,” he stated at a press conference at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) office in Claremont, St. Ann, today (Oct. 31), prior to touring the parish.

“We cannot continue to import day after day, month after month, it has to come to a stop” he stated, noting that the country’s high import bill for food far exceeds its export earnings.

He noted that while the parishes of Portland and St. Mary were severely affected, and preliminary reports are showing some $50 million worth of damage in St. Ann, other food-producing parishes were not as badly affected by the hurricane. 

These parishes, he assured, will be able to meet needs, while the Ministry works quickly to put the affected farmers back into production. “So, in terms of imports, we are going to contain it, and at the same time, it is critical that we do everything now to put the farmers back into production as soon as possible,” he stated.

The tour was to see firsthand, the damage to farms in the parish as a result of the hurricane, which hit the island on October 24.  Some 1, 500 farmers in St. Ann were affected and 70 hectares of crops damaged.

Mr. Hayles issued an appealed for all affected farmers to report the extent of their damage to their RADA office, so that any available assistance can be channeled to them as soon as possible.

He said this is very important in ensuring that they get back into production early.