John Myers Jr., Farmers' Weekly Coordinator
THE COST of the damage done to the agriculture sector from the recent drought and bush fires has been estimated at more than $270 million, a report by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) said.
Albert Shand, executive director of RADA, told Farmers Weekly that the report, which has just been completed, indicated that more than 14,000 farmers were affected.
More than 2,000 hectares of farm land were affected. He said the report was still being reviewed.
The parishes worst affected were St. Elizabeth, St. Thomas, Clarendon, Trelawny and Portland.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Cabinet earlier this month had approved $40 million to assist farmers affected by the drought and bush fires.
This is in addition to the $12 million that was allocated the month before to assist with the distribution of water in the affected areas.
Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman, said that a portion of the money would be given to the rapid response unit and the remainder to RADA to assist farmers.
He said the allocation was made based on "increased reports of a water shortage and bush fires, as well as queries to the Ministry of Land and Environment regarding the ongoing drought, (which) indicate that these matters continue to be of grave concern to the entire nation."
However, Mr. Shand on Thursday said, "We haven't got anything like that so far, all we have got is $3 million, which we have already given out."
He said he had not been formally informed of the amount to be given to RADA for distribution to affected farmers.
The agriculture sector was affected last year by Hurricanes Charley and Ivan which did widespread damage across the island.
The recovery of the sector was further devastated by the onslaught of a drought in February. All but three parishes were affected by the extremely dry conditions.
This resulted in a decline in agriculture production, especially in the domestic crop sector which dropped by 20 per cent.