Agriculture ministry cites ‘significant damage’ after hurricane

by carlosdennison

July 05, 2024

Papaya farmer Courtney Walcott inspects the damage done to his farm by Hurricane Beryl in Zion, Martha Brae, Trelawny.

Papaya farmer Courtney Walcott inspects the damage done to his farm by Hurricane Beryl in Zion, Martha Brae, Trelawny.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining is reporting significant damage to several facilities and agricultural projects following the passage of Hurricane Beryl on Wednesday.

The ministry, through a release, said that several trees fell on its compound. While the main building retains power, water, and Internet services, flooding has been reported on several floors due to water seepage through windows. The ministry said that communication across parishes remains extremely difficult, with reports of blocked roads due to fallen trees and poles. The ministry’s team has already begun clearing debris and fallen trees. The entity reported that the Bodles Research Station suffered 100 per cent damage to its commercial crops and the loss of the packing shed. Reports from the Banana Board indicate that staff have been alerted, and officers are currently assessing crop damage, which appears to be severe in areas such as Portland and St Mary, with damage exceeding 80 per cent.

“Bodles has reported total crop loss. One daily paid worker has tragically lost his house to a candle fire. The Banana Board office is without electricity, and while there has been minor damage to windows and plumbing, these issues are being addressed as part of the ongoing recovery efforts. Majority of the greenhouses in the major producing areas have been destroyed,” the ministry said.

The National Irrigation Commission (NIC) reported that its water production systems were not significantly affected. However, the conveyance systems were impacted by fallen trees and branches. The area of St Elizabeth is still being assessed, but communication issues have delayed the relay of information. The Essex Valley Agriculture Development Project’s solar system sustained damage, with approximately three per cent of the solar panels affected, and fencing and light poles are down.

“Water production systems across the NIC operations will remain non-operational until power is restored. Detailed evaluations are ongoing, and costs will be ascribed as assessments continue,” the statement said. Agro-processors like Grace Foods in St Elizabeth closed due to extensive infrastructure damage, and no acceptance of deliveries is anticipated until clean-up activities are completed. Fishing beaches are filled with rubble, and some boats are reported damaged, with extensive loss of fishing equipment. The Rural Agricultural Development Authority is conducting field investigations to determine the full impact of the hurricane on agricultural activities.

The ministry is actively coordinating with local agencies and partners to ensure a comprehensive assessment of the damage and to facilitate effective recovery and support for affected farmers, fishers and facilities.

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