Thu | Sep 21, 2017

JAS boss renews call for national crop insurance scheme

Published:Wednesday | April 26, 2017 | 4:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Several houses in Palmetto Pen, Clarendon, were almost covered by rising waters on Saturday as a result of heavy rains.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Senator Norman Grant, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), has renewed his calls for the creation of a national crop insurance scheme to protect the nation's farmers. His call comes against the background of last weekend's devastating rains, which caused significant flood damage in a number of farming communities across the island.

In an interview with The Gleaner on Monday, Grant said that the scheme, for which the JAS had been advocating for well over a decade, would provide support to farmers who are adversely affected in times of drought or natural disasters.

"The recent weather conditions bring into sharp focus the need for a national crop insurance scheme to support the farmers and the agriculture sector across the country," said Grant. "This is something the JAS has been stating for well over 15 years, and we want to use this opportunity to renew that call, to ask the Government to explore the setting up of a scheme that can provide support for both crop farmers and livestock farmers, when we run into a challenge of a disaster," said Grant.

"The scheme must also be applicable to drought conditions. In 2014 and 2015, there was a significant drop in domestic crop production, from 614,000 metric tons in 2014, to 571,000 metric tons in 2015, and the sole contributor to that negative growth was drought," continued Grant. "So, we are seeing where drought can be as devastating to the agriculture sector as floods and hurricanes."

Clarendon, St Thomas, and sections of St Elizabeth were the areas most significantly affected by the weekend rains, which resulted in landslides and flooding, forcing some people to evacuate their homes. Some farmers in affected communities also lost nearly all their crops and livestock.

Grant noted that while the move was intended to aid all farmers nationwide, those who lived in western Jamaica, which he sees as Jamaica's major agricultural production belt, would gain significant benefits. This is because they produced more than 65 per cent of the total agriculture production in the country, he said.

Grant said that farmers should be asked to contribute to the scheme to become eligible for protection.