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Government Senator Norman Grant, has called for the creation of a national crop insurance scheme/disaster relieve fun, which would be supported from the Consolidated Fund.
“There is a need to have a structural mechanism to provide the agricultural sector with a rapid response where there is a disaster of any kind. The sector is too vital to the development of the country for us not to have this addressed post hasted,” he said in the Senate yesterday (Feb. 2).
Senator Grant, who was responding to a private members motion brought by Opposition Senator Anthony Johnson, calling on the government to promptly address the plight of coffee farmers, whose crops were destroyed during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, said that the fund should be a contributory scheme. “It should have contribution also coming from the respective sub sectors, who wish to be covered by the scheme,” he said.
He further suggested that the scheme should be established as a statutory body, in a similar manner to the National Insurance Scheme and that international aid agencies could be approached to provide an amount that represented approximately 10 years budgetary support, and this money would be paid into the fund.
Senator Johnson, in his motion, raised concern that many farmers were not benefiting from the $85 million advanced by government to be used as pre-payment, before the release of sums by the insurers.
He called for prompt payment to be made to the farmers and that the government provide a full report on the insurance policies.
In the meantime, Senator Grant said that the coffee industry was recovering from the effects of the 2004 hurricane, with production moving from 2.4 million pounds to 4.4 million pounds over the last two years. “All hail to the Jamaican farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture, mainly for its support in the allocation of $100 million to assist coffee farmers, who were affected by the hurricane,” he said.
He added that the marketing companies had also played a significant role in the recovery process, with the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory advancing some $60 million in the form of fertilizer and other input, and cash advances to be repaid from future deliveries.
In addition, with production of non-Blue Mountain coffee declining by 280 per cent over the last 25 years, Senator Grant informed the Upper House that the Jamaica Agricultural Society would be collaborating with the Coffee Industry Board to spearhead a revival in production.
“The Jamaica Agricultural Society will be setting up a special task force to examine this and make recommendations to our Minister accordingly,” he stated.