Crippling drought forces Jamaica to contemplate importing produce

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File photo (caribbean360 / bigstock)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday July 15, 2014, CMC – The Portia Simpson Miller led administration will be taking steps to prevent a food shortage as the country continues to experience an extended dry spell.

Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke says a decision will be made this week on whether permits will be issued for the importation of some agricultural products.

According to Clarke, the record decline in rainfall is taking its toll on the crucial areas of agricultural production.

He said the southern parish of St. Elizabeth – the “bread basket” of the country, is having a “severe,severe” dry spell.

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“We’re trying to ascertain where the shortages are, and then we go from there.”

He said any decision to import additional food items will be data driven, “and our people are out there,” gathering the required information.

The crippling drought has also had an impact on the multi-billion dollar sugar industry with the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA), stating that the industry is under major threat due to the lack of water.

In an effort to ease the water shortage, Clarke says J$34-million (One Jamaica dollar = US$0.004 cents) has been set aside to assist in trucking water to some affected areas.

The water is to come from facilities operated by the National Water Commission (NWC) and National Irrigation Commission stations.

But the Agriculture Minister said that the money can only assist for a few more weeks and it will be necessary to go back to the Finance Ministry for further assistance through the Contingency Fund.