Bad roads cost farmers millions in Portland
Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
Thousands of kilograms of farm produce amounting to millions of dollars could go to waste unless several roads in the Rio Grande Valley of Portland are restored to provide access to farmers.
A series of landslides in the farming community of Mill Bank continues to hamper the efforts of dozens of farmers who have not only invested heavily in their livelihood, but are also unable to reap the bulk of their crops, which include dasheen, yams, bananas, ginger and plantain.
"We are now caught between a rock and a hard place," said 58-year-old Owen Campbell, a dasheen farmer of Mill Bank.
"Already, I have lost three crops of dasheen amounting to more than $6 million. The roads to the farms are impassable even to farmers. We have no access to these farmlands due to multiple land slippages. I now stand to lose approximately $4 million unless the matter is addressed urgently," he stressed.
Campbell told The Gleaner that some farmers had used unconventional means to get to their farms, but were unable to get the crops out as there was no roadway.
ready for reaping
Campbell pointed out that his six acres of farmlands now comprise fully grown dasheens, which would be ready for reaping in less than four months.
The difficulties faced by the more than 70 farmers, including 77-year-old Jonathan Lammie, and 61-year-old Cyrus Bell, are further compounded by the deplorable state of a bridge, which leads directly to their farm.
"We need immediate attention," said Bell. "The minister of agriculture is urging us to grow more, and we have done just that. We can supply the entire local market with dasheen, plantain, yams and ginger, but the roads leading to our farmlands have to be restored so that our crops can be transported to market. The swing bridge needs to be repaired, as it is the only access to our farmlands," he said.
Chairman of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority in Portland, Wayne Bailey, told The Gleaner that farmers in the Rio Grande Valley had been supplying the local market in the parish with yams and dasheen for many years.
"The dasheen crop is grown on a large scale in Mill Bank," he said. "Farmers supply the export market, along with the local market in other parishes, such as Kingston, by way of the Coronation Market, and in St Ann. In terms of yellow and soft yams, the consumption in the parish is easily covered by farmers," he explained. However, he said large-scale production was restricted due to deplorable road conditions and little or no access to farmlands.