A total of 400 million dollars have been earmarked for drought mitigation of which 100 million has now been allocated to mitigate the present drought conditions. Another 240 million has been allocated for the COVID-19 crisis under which tfood will be purchased for distribution.
He said the programme will be carried out over a 12-month period, targeting the planting of vegetables, fruits, condiments, roots and tubers as well as the rearing of small ruminants.
“The programme will be implemented in critical parishes islandwide, targeting in excess of 13,000 farmers as the Ministry looks to stimulate growth. We have every intention of ramping up production in all areas of agriculture,” Mr. Shaw noted.
The Minister was addressing the virtual launch of Farmer’s Month last thursday, where he outlined agricultural initiatives in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He noted that the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has commenced islandwide distribution of agricultural inputs under the $240-million stimulus programme, aimed at purchasing excess produce from farmers.
He said that focus must now be placed on ramping up production and productivity, providing irrigation and other critical infrastructure, incorporating climate-smart approaches, and instituting comprehensive marketing and distribution programmes as well as “an invigorated agro-processing programme”.
While the minister is ramping up food production, farmers in St. Elizabeth and Manchester are concerned that as a result of the viral pandemic affecting the tourism industry which has closed virtually all hotels in Jamaica, their food market has dried up. As a result, a large percentage of their food is rotting in the fields.
The farmers are calling on the ministry of agriculture to assist them in effectively distributing their produce amidst the national economic downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When contacted Jamaica Agricultural Society Presidenty Lenworth Fulton advised that any farmer who has produce that they can't sell to their traditional market, can contact the RADA Parish Office and an arrangement will be made for one of the purveyors to take that foodf at a negoitiated price
That food will be distributed in care packages to the Jamaica population. Already centres have been set up in Kingston and Machester and shortly, other centres will be set up at Denbigh and Montpelier in St. James. In addition, the government is looking for centres and building in communities that could be used as food distribution centres. This would ease the congestion at traditional markets.
Minister Shaw informed that during Farmer’s Month, H&L True Value will be donating $2 million worth of inputs to support any production and productivity initiatives being implemented by the Ministry, and giving special discounts of up to 10 per cent on most items for farmers and gardening enthusiasts.
The company has also offered to extend a discount of up to 15 per cent for farmers who have participated in the donation of produce to the quarantined communities, and the special programme to buy and redistribute excess farm products.
Mr. Shaw lauded farmers who donated $7.5 million worth of crops to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s relief efforts.
He implored farmers to step up production in order to ensure the nation’s food security at this time, noting that the planting of vegetables and fruits, condiments and spices, roots and tubers and field and forage crops “should never cease”.
“We look forward to planting season as we work together towards an abundant harvest ahead,” he said.
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