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Stabroek News



Floods flatten farms
published: Monday | November 10, 2008


Powerful waves caused by the outer bands of Hurricane Paloma washed sand on to Gloucester Avenue in Montego Bay, St James, on Saturday. - Photo by Denise Reid

WESTERN BUREAU:

As Jerome Holder walked through his neighbours' farms in Top Hill, St Elizabeth, yesterday, he scratched his head, seemingly confused about how they will restart their businesses.

"This means starting all over again and we don't know where to begin," Holder said sighing. He and several other farmers lost significant amounts of crops when the outer bands of Hurricane Paloma dumped heavy rains on southern and western parishes on Saturday. It has since been downgraded to a tropical depression.

The nation's agricultural sector is still struggling to recover from Tropical Storm Gustav which cut a swathe of destruction on Jamaica's eastern parishes in August.

100 farms affected

Holder, a farmer of more than 20 years, told The Gleaner that at least 100 farms have been badly damaged, and called for immediate assistance from the Government to resume planting in time for harvest in early January.

The affected communities include Top Hill, Comma Pen, Southfield, Ballards Valley, Tryall and parts of Flagaman.

"All we are asking for is some help so that we can start cultivating again. "Christmas is six weeks away and we can't wait until another two weeks before help comes. We need it right now," Holder emphasised, adding that many farmers are yet to receive promised aid since Gustav's onslaught.

Another farmer, Andrew Banton, echoed pleas for help.

"The heavy rains flooded the roads and our fields," he said. "It eroded the soil and washed away most of my crops and my sister's."

He estimates that he has lost about $20,000, but his sister's loss has been estimated at approximately $100,000.

Downbeat

Thomas Wright, 55, said his entire farm had been damaged and was downbeat about starting over.

"I would be really glad if I can get a little help to restart," he told The Gleaner.

Last night, Senator Norman Grant, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, said the latest wave of destruction was bad news for the sector.

He said the loss suffered by the farmers would affect supplies for the Christmas season since St Elizabeth is regarded as the Breadbasket Parish.

Agriculture Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said he was investigating the reports on the damage and would comment on the matter later.

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