Jamaica Agricultural Sector Suffers Significant Loss Due to Hurricane Beryl

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica agricultural sector is reported to have suffered damages estimated at more than one billion dollars (One Jamaica dollar=US$0.008 cents) as a result of the passage of Hurricane Beryl  last week, Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining Minister, Floyd Green has said.

greensAgriculture, Fisheries and Mining Minister Floyd Green (right) speaking with farmer Vaughan Ebanks regarding the damage to his farm (JIS Photo)Green said there was damage to all crop lines, noting “in fact, we have seen about 85 per cent of our banana and our plantain lines go down in Portland and St. Mary, but when you come to the southern parishes…

“Our vegetable lines and tubers such as cassava…we have  seen a lot of damage to fruit trees,  ackee, breadfruit and unfortunately, there was significant damage to our greenhouse farmers,” he added.

Green said he plans to update Parliament on Tuesday on the extent of the damage and outline a programme of response.

“We do understand that it needs a quick response at this time and we know our farmers are out there and thankfully, they are resilient. So, they are planning to get back to farming and we at the Ministry will be willing to assist them.”

Outlining the damage to the greenhouse farmers, the Minister said that an estimated 90 per cent of producers across the southern parishes of Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth were affected, with several of them losing crops and structures.

“We will have to do something special for our greenhouse farmers to see how we can get them back up and running as quickly as possible. [This is] a big blow to our agriculture sector in general because our greenhouses have normally been the backbone of our food security matrix as they operate in and out of season because of how they are structured.

This is going to be a massive blow for our vegetable [crop] lines.”

Green said that the regarding the fisheries sector, preliminary reports indicate that 10 to 15 per cent of fishing boats were damaged and infrastructure such as sheds, adding that several fishers have lost their pots.

He said that livestock farmers have also been significantly impacted, especially those producing poultry.

“In crafting a response, we not only have to look at how we help them to restart in terms of restocking [chickens], but also to get those structures [chicken coops] back up and running. A lot of those structures were very expensive as they were top of the line in terms of design. There were tunnel houses that were unfortunately destroyed.”

Green said that entities under the Ministry were also impacted, with the National Irrigation Commission’s (NIC) renewable energy site in St. Elizabeth sustaining significant damage.

“This is our newest site for our renewable energy and unfortunately we would’ve lost at least 20 per cent of the solar panels…and we have seen this sort of loss across all our sites in St. Elizabeth. So, it is going to cost us millions to replace these.

“Additionally, we have seen losses at Bodles (Agricultural Research Station in Hounslow), one of our bud houses has gone down completely and we have not only lost plants but the house and we will have to do some rebuilding there. So, there is going to be a significant infrastructure cost to the Ministry to get these systems back up and running,” Green said.

He noted that the NIC has been unable to pump water to farmers due to electricity challenges and is seeking a solution to ensure that farmers “can get back into their fields.”

Green made an appeal to the private sector to aid in the recovery effort, as an “all hands-on deck” approach is needed.