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Barbados - Plan to fix flood-damaged farms

With farmers in St Lucy still reeling from crop losses estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from last Saturday’s floods, Government is working on an as-yet-undisclosed plan to reduce the impact of both floods and droughts on farming, Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir has told.

Saying he could not go into the details of the plan, Weir indicated that he has already sought the assistance of an international agency to rehabilitate several farming areas, including the flood-ravaged Spring Hall Land Lease Project in St Lucy, which bore the brunt of vegetable crop losses and the wider Scotland District.

Weir declared: “I am going to do a full consultation with the farmers to bring a comprehensive solution.

“You see these one-off things don’t work in my books.

“It is not going to be a case of having a flood and we give you some money, that doesn’t work in my view.

“I deal with long-term solutions and that is why we are going to look at stabilisation.”

The plan does not just include mitigation measures for the heavy rains but will also respond to the equally devastating dry spells.

“This plan would include things such as water harvesting for Scotland District and Spring Hall and that whole area is going to be transformed.

“It is going to be a major project and we will be doing this with international support.

“I can’t give you much more on it because a few things still need to be finalised.”

Flooded-out farmers have declared a disaster at the Spring Hall Land Lease Project in St Lucy, after barely surviving water shortages and extreme heat for months.

They have also issued a warning of an expensive season for shoppers this Christmas after massive losses wiped out several growers.

Vice president of the Spring Hall Farmers’ Association Dujon Edwards told that even though the rains have abated, up to Tuesday many farmers were still unable to access their land, as their crops were still under water.

While the damage assessment is still ongoing, he estimated losses to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He revealed that a number of farmers have sustained total losses and have no way of bouncing back, save some intervention from Government. This includes not only damages to crops but also to farm infrastructure such as irrigation lines.

In his interview, Edwards said: “The farmers are going to need some serious assistance because these crops which were damaged in rains on Saturday are the first set of crops that really made it through the drought period.

“We fought with them and get them to the stage of harvesting, only to have them washed away.

“So we are really hoping to get some sort of assistance from Government.”

But on the question of providing short-term relief for the farmers, Weir told that Government would need to do a thorough assessment before making such a determination. He also sought to downplay the extent of the crop losses since initial estimates, suggesting that root crops ought to have survived the water submersion.

Weir said: “There are only certain crops that would be damaged in floods and the others we would have to do an assessment on those.

“Crops such as sweet potatoes, yams and so on are not damaged by floods because when the water runs off and the place dries out those crops will still live again.

“So you don’t look at what is on top you look at what is beneath. If you have things like watermelons and those kinds of crops then you do an assessment to determine the impact to farmers and then look for a solution.

“However, this is not something that we are going to do up in the air.”

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