Tue | Oct 4, 2022

Flagaman farmers appeal for help as farms razed again

Published:Friday | August 19, 2022 | 12:10 AMAinsworth Morris/Staff Reporter
A scorched section of a farm in Flagaman, St Elizabeth.
A scorched section of a farm in Flagaman, St Elizabeth.
A scorched section of a farm in Flagaman, St Elizabeth.
A scorched section of a farm in Flagaman, St Elizabeth.
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St Elizabeth farmer Robert Myrie is ruing yet another devastating fire, which has resulted in him suffering hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.

The Flagaman-based farmer, who was doing business in the nearby town of Black River on Tuesday when he got the call, said the blow comes on the two-year anniversary of another inferno that razed farming operations in another section of the community.

“I don’t know why these things have to happen. That [August 16, 2019, fire] was the last big fire, and this again, and the farmers are suffering now because it’s a dry season,” he told The Gleaner, noting that his stock of organic mulch has been lost.

“We suffer a lot of damage to onions and cantaloupe. There are a lot of farms that were prepared to plant for the farm crop year, cover down and ready to plant. All of them burn off, so we suffering now from [the loss of] grass, fertiliser, and seeds. This loss from the fire, it’s very bad, and grass is so very expensive, and it’s very hard to find, so we’re suffering much,” Myrie lamented on Thursday.

“One guy lost everything that he put out. All of his farm – totally destroyed. So I don’t know how he is going to restart again. It’s very hard,” added Myrie, who is hoping that the Government will help the affected farmers to recover.

Peter Campbell, another farmer who lost mulching valued at about $400,000, believes that the fire was accidentally started by a smoker about 8 a.m.

“A passer-by dropped, like, a cigarette butt or probably ganja butt, but you can see where the person use dem foot and rub out the spot, and a right there the fire start from ... and it start from in the road because you have a track topside my garden,” said Campbell, who has been farming for two decades.

He told The Gleaner that the mulching that he lost was to be put into production soon as he was preparing the leased land to plant his crops for the upcoming season.

“I had nothing on the land right now but the mulching, and that’s a very expensive part of the farming, and it’s four acres [which I lost], and we have to pay to lease the land because it’s not my land, and if you lease the land with the mulch, you have to pay for the mulch also, so I pay for the mulch and lease the land, and I got it prepared and I lose all of that,” he said.

St Elizabeth South Western Member of Parliament (MP) Floyd Green told The Gleaner that roughly 25 acres of farmland and eight farmers were directly impacted.

“A lot of that is what we use as input for mulching, so it’s grass, but it’s highly valuable ... and we noticed that a couple of water tanks have been destroyed,” Green told The Gleaner.

The MP said that he had contacted the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, which dispatched a team to the area to conduct preliminary assessments of the damage. He said that he would be working with the agency and the agriculture ministry to assist the recovery effort.

“It’s a difficult time. Now, we are going through a drought period. We’ve had an extended drought period, so the farmers have been facing significant difficulty, so it has come at a very bad time,” said Green, a former agriculture minister.

ainsworth.morris@gleanerjm.com