“The Government wants to ensure that agriculture remains the mainstay of this parish so families can continue to support children, they can earn well from agriculture, and take care of their domestic affairs,” he said.
The Minister was addressing farmers and other industry stakeholders, who gathered at the offices of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) in Port Maria.
This intervention, he noted, is part of the Ministry’s comprehensive short-term response to the drought conditions currently ravaging the island. St. Mary, which is a primary producer of banana, cocoa and coffee, has been one of the most severely affected parishes.
Minister Kellier said initial assessments by the Banana Board and RADA indicate that the dry conditions and resulting bush fires have affected several farmers and large acres of produce in various communities.
He told the farmers that once the final assessment has been completed by RADA to see the full extent of the losses, “the necessary support arrangements will be made to help you get back on your feet”.
The Minister also announced plans to shortly roll out phase 2 of the Ministry’s Water Storage Tank Programme, which will benefit the farmers of St Mary. He noted that 220 tanks have been distributed across the island so far.
In response a request from the farmers, the Minister said a team from the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) and RADA will be dispatched to the parish next week to conduct assessments of designated farms, in order to design localised solutions to their irrigation challenges
Further, as part of long-term strategies, Minister Kellier said he will make a comprehensive presentation to the Growth Agenda Sub-Committee of Cabinet on Thursday (October 1), for a major irrigation and water harvesting and storage programme to be implemented island-wide.
Meanwhile, he informed that plans are far advanced for the establishment of the agro-park at Unity/Nonsuch in St Mary.
“I am sure that this agro park will go a far way in increasing tree crop production, which is critical in supporting the coconut industry as well as the cocoa industry and it will also help with the whole business of climate smart agriculture as it has to do with watershed production,” he said.
During the tour, the Minister made stops in Aqualta Vale, Esher, and the Orange River Agricultural Research Station, where he had lengthy, robust discussions with famers.
He was accompanied by Member of Parliament (MP) for Central St. Mary, Dr. Morais Guy; MP for South East St. Mary, Dr. Winston Green; and MP for Western St. Mary, Jolyan Silvera, whose joint request prompted the Minister’s visit to the parish.
Also on the tour were: Permanent Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry, Donovan Stanberry; Chief Executive Officer of RADA, Lenworth Fulton; Custos of the parish, Hon. Alaric Astor ‘Bobby’ Pottinger; as well as representatives from the All Island Banana Growers Association, the Cocoa Board, the Coconut Industry Board, and other industry stakeholders and agencies of the Ministry.