Thursday 21 November, 2019

$50m Gov’t assistance for farm fire victims in Flagaman, St Bess

Floyd Green (file photo)

Floyd Green (file photo)

The Government has provided close to $50 million worth of relief supplies for 47 farmers in Flagaman, St Elizabeth, who suffered losses during a fire in August.

The expenditure includes over $14.3 million worth of supplies, comprising 28 black tanks, irrigation fixtures, hoses, more than 100 bags of fertiliser, and a variety of seeds, among them – onion, sweet pepper, watermelon and cantaloupe. 

Additionally, the farmers have been provided with over 30 truckloads of guinea grass, to be used for mulching.

The fire razed more than 200 acres of farmland, resulting in losses estimated at $45 million.

Some of the supplies were handed over by State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), Floyd Green, during a ceremony at the Pedro Plains Anglican Church Hall in St Elizabeth on Friday (October 18).

Green said the Government was prompted to initiate and expedite the relief effort to ensure that the farmers get back into production in short order, as they are deemed to be critical to safeguarding Jamaica’s food security. 

He said the Government acted through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), “which has been here from day one”, adding that “we quickly identified the farmers who were affected, and we analysed the needs”.

Added Green: “When we came and saw the devastation, we decided that we had to quickly get to work, because Flagaman is too important a community to allow it to not be able to produce… (as it) has the most registered farmers of any community in Jamaica,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state minister lauded private sector entities that contributed over $2 million worth of supplies to the affected farmers.

Jamaica Broilers, through Hi-Pro, provided seeds, chemicals and fertilisers valued $1 million, while H and L Agro supplied $1 million worth of hybrid vegetable and fruit seeds, fertilisers and branded drums.

Green said fertiliser blender and supplier, Newport Fersan (Jamaica) Limited, conducted soil tests in the fire-damaged area, which concluded that “despite the fire, the organic matter in the soil is still there in sufficient quantities for planting”.

“One of the things we knew for a fact was that the Government could not do it alone. We realised that we needed the private sector to come on board, and a number of companies have come in to assist,” he added.

Green said the affected farmers are expected to resume full production, which should auger well, particularly for the Christmas season.

Meanwhile, one of the recipients, Vernon Fearon, who expressed gratitude on behalf of the beneficiaries, lauded the Government for moving quickly to assist the farmers “to get back on their feet.

“August 16 (when the fire occurred) was not an ordinary day for us in Flagaman… (so) we must applaud the Government… (and) thumbs up to the RADA staff… they did well. As a result of the assistance that has been given to us, we are now charged with the responsibility to let the effect be known, seen and felt in the market place,” he said.

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