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Losses mount as St Bess farmers hope for rain

Published:Monday | July 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
As the drought hits the farming communities in St Elizabeth, trucks line up to purchase water at this well in Cheapside to sell to farmers. Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

With an announce-ment coming out of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries that the Government has taken the decision to import some vegetables, one farmer in the breadbasket parish of St Elizabeth says it might be necessary because of the harsh and far-reaching effects of the drought.

Walton Stephenson, who has a farm in Chelsea, Malvern, says that the drought has greatly affected his crop of tomatoes and melons.

"I plant 5,000 holes of tomato and about 1,500 holes of melon that I would look to get 15,000-20,000 pounds. I just get about 4,000 pounds of melon.

"The tomato that I would look to get at least 20,000 to 25,000 pounds, [or possibly] even more out of, I get only about 2,000 pounds," he told The Gleaner.

Stephenson, who also plants carrots, said he has prepared the ground and planted the seeds and now he is waiting for rain.

Kinsley Green, another farmer in the area, says this is the worst drought he has experienced and he was seeking work outside of farming as his agricultural efforts are proving futile.

"I plant just about everything. Mi just idle now. Mi a look a work; it is that bad. It nuh make no sense you go farm. For the past four weeks, mi stop it. You have to be wasting your money a try catch it up. You have to buy water, you have to pay labour to wet it, and you not getting any returns. It's just as well you put it down for a while until we see a way out.

"This is one of the sharpest droughts we have ever seen. We see longer drought than this but not as devastating like this, because it come with pure breeze. We've seen nine weeks of breeze and is pure night breeze, and the night breeze doesn't allow the dew to fall to moisten the crops."