Sun | Apr 5, 2020

Farmers planting more to offset COVID-19 effect

Published:Friday | March 27, 2020 | 12:14 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Louis O’Connor, 57 years old resident of Kentish district in St Catherine, talks about the difficulties his community faces especially with the arrival the Corona Covid 19 disease in Jamaica.

LOUIS O’CONNOR, a resident of Kentish in St Catherine, has planted more seeds on his farm to guard against food shortage amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Jamaica recorded its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus on March 10, many engaged in panic buying of food and sanitising agents.

Since then, the local retail and distribution trade gave the assurance that it has up to three months’ supply of basic foods and other essentials in storage.

Though O’Connor is aware of this assurance, he still fears the worst.

“Mi plant some yam, cocoa, and corn, and I’m hoping for rain,” he told The Gleaner in an interview on Tuesday.

“More farming needed now, ‘cause the country basically shut down; and sooner [rather] than later, shipment of food nah guh can come in,” he lamented.

O’Connor said the virus has presented an opportunity for the Government to examine Jamaica’s food security. He pointed to the natural resources in the district, and in other areas of Jamaica, that are being wasted every year.

“Apple, breadfruit, mango, starapple, pear, guava etc, drop off the trees in this area. Now, I am saying to the Government, some of the factories that are closed, reopen them and organise some processing so [that] these crops can be used well,” he explained.

Market opportunity

He said the processed goods could be sold on the local market as well as be exported, “so that the economy of the country can be better”.

Another resident, who lives in Junction in the same parish, was laid off shortly after the virus was confirmed in Jamaica. He worked for a furniture retail company as a contract delivery man.

“Dem nah pay me now ‘cause a contract mi deh pan,” said the resident, who declined to share his name.

“So far, it nuh really a impact me ‘cause me nuh live off a one source of income. I am a farmer, I plant sweet peppers,” he said.

The 35-year-old man is also a father of three. He explained that it is more difficult to tend to the children while they are at home because they demand more food.

He is uncertain about when he will return to work but has plans, in the interim, to plant a variety of cash crops, in addition to sweet peppers.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com