Sandy's damage to the agri sector to exceed $1B
Christopher Serju, Sunday Gleaner Writer
Officials of the Ministry of Agriculture have already estimated that Hurricane Sandy left $770 million in damage, but that figure is expected to climb significantly as it does not include the losses in St Thomas, Clarendon, St Ann and the devastated Portland.
Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary in the agriculture ministry, told The Sunday Gleaner that the figure was "extremely preliminary".
According to Stanberry, 11,000 farmers have, so far, been assessed, but the estimate of loss now on the table does not include livestock. In addition, the reports from the parishes which the ministry has received are also preliminary.
With Hurricane Sandy striking during the reaping season for coffee, it is expected that the loss of mature berries is significant, while damage to the root systems of trees could also be a major setback.
The same is true for the banana sector.
"It goes without saying that banana production was severely affected," said Stanberry.
He was supported by Grethel Sessing, chairman of the All-Island Banana Growers' Association, who estimates that the sector lost at least $500 million.
"The banana industry suffered a devastating blow as a result of Hurricane Sandy. St Mary has been severely affected and recovery is highly dependent on government intervention," declared Sessing.
The Banana Board is carrying out its detailed assessment, which will trigger assistance to registered growers from the Banana Industry Catastrophe Fund.
The fund paid out $10 million to banana and plantain farmers following Tropical Storm Nicole in September last year.
The fund was set up in 2007 to help with the speedy recovery of the island's banana industry in the wake of natural disasters.
The Banana Board manages the fund and compensation is provided in the form of supplies, but, to be eligible, farmers must grow banana or plantain for sale and have at least 500 roots of the crop.
While he gave no commitment, Stanberry speculated that once the full extent of the damage is clear, Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke could make representation to the Cabinet for assistance to farmers to help them get back on their feet as soon as possible.
Stanberry was thankful that Jamaica's major crop production parishes, from St Catherine to Clarendon, extending westward including the Breadbasket Parish of St Elizabeth, were not ravaged like those in the eastern section of the island.