The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has responded to the glut in tomatoes in St. Elizabeth by purchasing 10,000 pounds from farmers, under the Government’s buy-back programme.
More than $30 million has been allocated to purchase the excess produce that is being sold anywhere from $35 to $40 per pound.
The St. Elizabeth Parish Office of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has been tasked to oversee the programme. On Thursday, February 11, dozens of farmers turned up at the office in Santa Cruz to sell their glut.
The tomatoes that RADA has purchased will be redistributed to outlets in other parishes to be resold.
RADA’s St. Elizabeth Principal Director of Field Services and Operations, Winston Simpson, told JIS News that tomato production has increased, following the recent heavy rains, thus the current glut.
He said the Ministry and RADA stand ready to support the Jamaican farmer by ensuring that their yields do no go to waste but find suitable markets.
“After hearing what took place and what the farmers have been going through, Minister, Hon. Floyd Green, gave us the charge to assist the farmers. With urgency, they put a team together and made the funds available. So, right now we are here supporting and continuing the national buy-back programme,” Mr. Simpson outlined.
He is urging consumers to support farmers by buying tomatoes and other crops that are grown locally.
“Our (RADA) responsibility is to do the handholding and provide great extension services to make sure that whatever is produced is consumed. So, we have to make sure that the charge of the Government is met, the demands of the consumers are met and that the farmers are comfortable,” he said.
Siblings, Wayne and Shelly Russell, were among the many farmers who turned up to participate in the buy-back programme. Combined, they brought more than 500 pounds of tomatoes to be sold to RADA.
Ms. Russell said the initiative is beneficial to farmers, who can now rest assured that their tomatoes will not spoil and go to waste.
“We couldn’t get them sold, so thank God for the buy-back programme, because if it wasn’t for it, everything would spoil,” said Ms. Russell.
Another farmer from Southfield in the parish, Arden Parchment, indicated that it cost him $600,000 to produce his yield over three months. He said he was worried that it would all go to waste, but “we thank them for the programme where RADA can take some from us”.