1,000 banana and plantain farmers are receiving much needed hurricane relief thanks to the support of the European Union. The farmers are all from the eastern parishes of St. Mary, Portland and St. Thomas, which were ravished by Hurricane Sandy in October of last year. The damage inflicted to these banana dependent areas put the island's banana crop, a crucial element of Jamaican food security, at risk.
The official handing over ceremony for the funds was held today (January 30th) at the Trinity Boxing Plant in St. Mary with the attendance of Agriculture Minister, the Hon. Roger Clarke. Also in attendance were several MPs from the affected parishes who were grateful of the support their constituents were receiving, and anxious to see the farmers on the path to recovery.
The funds - some $13.5 million JMD, will be used to purchase desperately needed fertiliser to shorten the recovery period of the banana crop, as well as insecticide to mitigate further damage by the borer infestation, which usually surges in the wake of hurricane damage.
The project which is funded through the European Union Banana Support Program (EUBSP) has in fact already begun and is overseen by RADA, the Banana Board and the All Island Banana Growers Association (AIGBA). The relief is part of the EU's ongoing commitment to the banana industry's disaster mitigation and resilience which includes providing seed funding in 2007 for the Banana Board's Catastrophe Fund – a lifeline to the industry in times of natural disaster, which is making payments to qualifying farmers who are registered contributors.
Head of Delegation of the European Union in Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amadei, speaking at the ceremony urged those in attendance "to work to ensure that appropriate systems and procedures are prepared to respond to extreme weather events. We must be prepared at all times so that and industry as critical as this can rebound from natural disasters".
She also took care to note that the EU remains Jamaica's largest grant supporter of agriculture and a committed development partner of the Jamaican people and "will work with the Government and the industry to try to define the best options for these insurances" reminding the audience that "as climate change and climate change related weather incidents increase, extreme weather events may well become the new norm".