Over the past several weeks, Jamaica has been experiencing poor weather conditions which have been influenced by significant weather systems including the most recent Hurricanes Zeta and Eta. As previously mentioned in Cabinet, the continuous torrential rainfall has dealt quite a blow to the Agricultural sector with exponential damage to produce, livestock and infrastructure.
I now wish to address this honourable house by providing an update on the response of this government to the continued flooding across the island with the greatest damage evidenced in St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Clarendon and Manchester.
As a result of the weather conditions, some 2, 955 hectares of crops were lost, valued at some $2.5 billion, affecting approximately 14,181 farmers. Crops lost in the deluge include: legumes, vegetables, condiments, cereal, plantains, fruits, Irish and sweet potatoes, bananas, yam, cassava and sorrel.
Madame Speaker, the livestock subsector was not spared.
The largest loss was from poultry (broilers and layers) at an estimated value of some $12 million. Other impactful losses include: damage to apiculture valued at approximately $10 million with over 295 colonies lost by some 60 farmers; over 60 dairy and beef cattle were lost valued at approximately $6.8 million and over 350 pigs and small ruminants valued at some $7.5 million. Overall losses for Livestock amounted to some $38.9 Million with a total of approximately 780 farmers being affected.
Madame Speaker, the damage assessment for infrastructure such as farm roads and drains, protected structures, greenhouses and catchment areas is ongoing. However, preliminary estimates are valued at $140M. The Ministry is working feverishly towards the completion of the assessments despite the attendant obstacles.
Support to the sector
Madame Speaker, the Ministry understands the challenges that the sector faces even as we push to get past the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic through new norms. The onslaught of this meandering weather condition has now challenged the sector like never before. I call upon the resilience of our farmers and other stakeholders, supporting agencies, both public and private, to stand with the government in being resolute that we must recover.
Accordingly, the Ministry has identified resources which will be redirected to provide immediate relief to the sector.
The Ministry commits to working with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service in identifying additional support to return to acceptable levels of productivity. The mechanism of support will be coordinated through the direct provision of input supplies to farmers, to be dispatched via:
B. Members of Parliament
C. Rehabilitation of infrastructure (farm roads, drains, protected structures)
D. Public Private Partnership
Response to the Sector
Madame Speaker our support will be focused in the parishes which experienced the greatest losses. These include Manchester, St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine, St. Thomas, Clarendon and St. Andrew.
Accessing support -RADA
RADA extension officers across the island have been dispatched to identify areas and farmers who were impacted. These farmers are now advised to follow up with their extension officers and parish offices in order to access their benefits. They will be required to complete the beneficiary assessment forms and follow the instruction given by their RADA officer. Those registered will be directed to select farm stores to access their benefits.