St Elizabeth farmers' yield greatly affected by drought
Launtia Cuff, Gleaner Writer
With Jamaica among several Caribbean countries experiencing critical drought conditions as a result of climate change, farmers in Chelsea, Malvern, in south east St Elizabeth, have been among those most affected.
In addition to frequent fires that affect the area, many farmers have been experiencing reduced crop yield as a result of the drought.
Walton Stephenson, who has a farm in the area, said the drought has greatly affected his crop of tomatoes and melons.
"This garden that I have here, I plant 5,000 holes of tomato and I plant about 1,500 holes of melon that I would look to get 15,000 to 20,000 pounds; I just get about four thousand pounds of melon.
"The tomato that I would look to get at least 20,000 to 25,000 of tomato [or possibly] even more; I get about 2,000 pounds of tomato," Stephenson lamented.
Stephenson, who also plants carrots, said that at the moment he has prepared the ground and planted the seeds and now he is waiting for rain.
Kinsley Green, another farmer in the area, said that this is the worst drought he has experienced and that he was seeking work outside of farming as his agricultural efforts are proving futile.
"I plant just about [everything]. Me just idle now, me a look a work; it is that bad. No make no sense you go [farm]. For the past four week, me stop it for you have to be [wasting] your money a try catch it up (make your crops grow). 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 drought 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].
With the announcement coming out of the Ministry of Agriculture that the country has taken the decision to import food crops, Green went on to say that it was perfectly understandable for the Government to search for solutions to the food demand outside of local farmers as it may very well be necessary because of the harsh and far-reaching effects of the drought.
"The country [has to be] run; the hotels have to run. So do what [they] have to do. We will soon catch up if we get rain," Green said.