Farmers urged to unite to tap funding streams
A veteran farmer in St Catherine has called for structural reform and increased capital investment in the agriculture sector to harvest greater revenue and export potential.
Leroy Delahaye has posited that the haphazard framework of the farming industry has doomed agricultural interests to limited profit.
Delahaye, who cultivates on eight acres of farmland in Bushy Park, knows well the travails of the sector having toiled for decades.
“We need to be unified in the agriculture industry to get full value. Plus, with a group structure, grant funding is available,” he told The Gleaner.
“We, as farmers, can supply the local industry and even export, but the business needs structure.”
Delahaye grows crops such as Chinese melon, Chinese squash, eggplant, chilli pepper, purple cabbage, sweet corn, and a variety of papaya that is more resistant to diseases.
The 67-year-old works closely with technical personnel at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, the state agency tasked with offering support, and urges other farmers to boost their competence and capacity. He has credited his training at Spring Plains in Clarendon for helping him to refine his craft.
Survival in farming, he said, depends on a keen eye on weather patterns and other industry variables.
Citing onions as an example, Delahaye said that farmers who are trained in proper storage and cultivation practices will thrive in the wider market.
Delahaye, who started out as a farm mechanic in 1973, strategically focuses on mainly niche crops so he isn’t as exposed to the economic shocks of national glut.
Despite suffering crop losses to the storm rains of October and November last year, he is positive that he will survive the downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
“I am kept strong by my daily work on the plants here. Every day it gets me stronger, so I continue,” Delahaye said.
He has also criticised the construction of houses on arable land - a trend that is set to continue if the Government’s planned Bernard Lodge township takes shape in St Catherine.
“Farming is what’s going to take us back to where we need to be economically. To encourage industrial trained youth in farming, then the right lands must be made available,” Delahaye said.