Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Ian Hayles says early estimates indicate that close to 11,000 farmers across the island have been affected by Hurricane Sandy, with some 1,500 hectares of crops totally destroyed.
"The level of devastation to the agricultural sector is going to take us a little time to get back on our feet," he said, noting that the preliminary estimate does not include livestock.
Addressing journalists following a tour of a number of banana farms in St Mary last Friday, the state minister informed that preliminary estimates show that the recent passage of Hurricane Sandy has dealt a devastating blow to the country's agricultural sector.
He pointed out that early estimates point to more than $700 million worth of damage in the parishes of St Mary, Trelawny, St James, Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, Manchester, St Catherine, and St Andrew.
A breakdown of the parishes shows significant losses for St Andrew, amounting to some $312 million; followed by St Mary at some $200 million; Trelawny, $32 million; St James, $47 million; Westmoreland, $8 million; St Elizabeth, $4 million; Manchester, $14 million; and St Catherine, $87 million.
FIGURE COULD INCREASE
Hayles explained that the total figure will be much more when assessments for the parishes of St Thomas, Portland, St Ann and Clarendon are completed this week.
"I think when all of this is over (the assessment), it is going to be more than a billion dollars," he said, noting that the damage to the coffee industry in the hills of St Andrew has been significant; and that banana farmers in St Mary have been completely devastated.
In the meantime, several banana farmers in the parish of St Mary told JIS News that they have lost as much as 100 per cent of their crops, due to the hurricane.
Farmer Denzil Cox informed that he has lost close to 100 per cent or 151/2 acres of banana, with an estimated value of more than $1.5 million.
"I fertilised the farm three weeks ago and that was $400,000 and everything is down now and I have to replant and do the same fertilising, which is another $400,000. Plus, my weekly pay bill is going to be about $80,000, and every two weeks I spray, which is $42,000, so it is a lot of losses," he said.
Cox said he is now in need of assistance from the Government to restore his banana farm, so he can get back into production as early as possible.
Operator of Gay Rocks Farm, Daniel Barnett, who has weathered three storms over the past six years, also lost 100 per cent of his crops. "My farm is 10 acres …
Barnett noted that he has been contributing to the Government's Catastrophe Fund and is now looking to that initiative for assistance in getting his farm back into production.
Meanwhile, the state minister gave the assurance that farmers who have been contributing to the Catastrophe Fund will be dealt with "early and efficiently".
"The ministry will also sit (this week) and do some assessments in terms of reallocation to see how best we can put the farmers back into production," Hayles said.
He pointed out that regarding assistance to commercial farmers, the Government will be looking to cut interest rates, in order to allow them to go back into production as soon as possible.
The state minister said the Government is committed to the more than 200,000 farmers "we have in this country and we will continue to support them in whatever way we can, going forward".