He said the Farmers in the districts of Enfield, Belfield, Richmond, Rock River and surrounding areas have been badly affected by the "Frosty Pod" disease, which was confirmed in 2016. The disease has severely reduced and, in some cases, completely destroyed the yield of our internationally-acclaimed fine flavour cocoa.
Dr Alexis said hundreds of persons who are connected to the cocoa industry are now suffering severe hardships as a result of the economic fallout from the disease.
He said the Government's initial response, administered by the Quarantine Division of the Ministry of Agriculture to prune the affected trees, has now left many cocoa farmers with trees that cannot produce fruit. As a result, now, they cannot earn an income from their cocoa fields.
Dr. Alexis wants Minister of Agriculture, Audley Shaw, to act quickly and decisively to rescue the economic prospects of the cocoa farmers and restore confidence in the industry.
He said the last national cocoa planting programme was more than fifty (50) years ago, between 1964-1969, pointing ouit that the island's annual production of cocoa nationally was almost 3000 tonnes between 1995-96 and it is now down to only 100 tonnes.
He said one tonne of Jamaican fine flavoured cocoa, internationally, is worth between USD $6000-$8000 at current market prices.
CDr. Alexis said the cocoa farmers of South East St Mary were urging Minister Shaw to:
- Increase and improve the level of consultation and participation of the affected farmers and their associations in planning for the future.
- Accelerate the intervention of RADA to assist the farmers to replant their fields as quickly as possible.
- Lobby the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) to provide grants/loans, especially to small and medium sized cocoa farmers for nursery programmes.
Dr Alexis said South East St Mary is remembered as a proud and strong farming community. The cocoa farmers are not asking for handouts from the government, but instead a sustainable and viable plan to save their livelihoods and help the country earn valuable foreign exchange.
- Countries: Jamaica