Help For Coffee Farmers Affected By Fires

KINGSTON, June 23 (JIS): The Government has commenced distributing equipment and plants to coffee farmers in the Blue Mountain Ridge, whose crops were destroyed by recent fires.

This was made possible through the $25 million allocated by the Government to assist the affected farmers.

Under the rehabilitation project, a total of 20 farmers have received support varying from 650-gallon water tanks to coffee seedlings. The programme will be carried out over 10 months, with 900 seedlings to be planted per acre on farms that were destroyed by the fires.

Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, who handed over the items to the farmers, today (June 23), at the St. Andrew Parish office of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), said support is also available to farmers whose bananas and plantains were affected by fires in other parishes, such as St. Thomas and Portland.

Noting that with the recent rains, some crops have begun to “bounce back,” the Minister said farmers have been working tirelessly to minimise the effects of fires. “We at the Ministry are committed to continue to work along with them and to facilitate our farmers,” he added.

Mr. Kellier said in addition to the recovery support, he will be leading a team through the Flamstead and Tower Hill/Lime Tree communities of St. Andrew, where they will “participate in a tree-planting exercise, as part of our endeavour to encourage the farmers.”

Reiterating the need for responsible farming, the Minister said burning of solid waste and bushes must not be done, as this affects the livelihood of communities.

“It is too costly to repair the damage, and it inhibits our ability to export crops that you lose,” he emphasised.

The assistance programme is being managed by RADA, in collaboration with the Coffee Industry Board (CIB), and the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS). For farmers to benefit, they must be registered with RADA.

Some 96 acres of coffee were destroyed in St. Andrew, St. Thomas and Portland, with another 303 acres affected in three parishes. Losses to small farmers amounted to $93 million.

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