Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Clarendon sorrel crop decimated

Published:Friday | November 27, 2020 | 12:23 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer
Agriculture Minister Floyd Green (right) encouraging young female farmers Stephany Staple (left) and Nordia Lindsay to continue farming despite significant losses as a result of recent rains at yesterday’s handover ceremony of COVID-19 assistance in Denb
Agriculture Minister Floyd Green (right) encouraging young female farmers Stephany Staple (left) and Nordia Lindsay to continue farming despite significant losses as a result of recent rains at yesterday’s handover ceremony of COVID-19 assistance in Denbigh, Clarendon, yesterday.

Many Clarendon sorrel farmers who had been hoping to cash in on Jamaicans’ love for the popular holiday drink are counting their losses, with recent rains almost entirely wiping out their crop.

A member of the hibiscus family, the flower of the sorrel plant has been boiled and jazzed up with ginger, sugar, and rum to brighten Christmases on the island for centuries.

This year, Romeo Mitchell, who farms as well as markets his agro-processed produce such as turmeric powder, is among those who will miss out on the bumper sales as the rains did not spare his sorrel crop. His sweet peppers, corns and okras also took a hit.

He is hoping sales will pick up for the natural herb spices he produces under his Paradise Blends brand.

“Come December, my only hope is that I can get more customers and see that part of my business growing,” he told The Gleaner.

Unlike Mitchell, it is a complete wipeout for Colbeck farmer Nordia Lindsay, who said there is definitely nothing to smile about for the Christmas season.

Lindsay, who does mixed crops such as sweet potato, cabbage, and sorrel, said it was a case of déjà vu as last year about this time, she lost everything to the rains.

“I try to go back in the field to see if I could get back some of the pumpkin. I reaped about 15 pounds, but when I cut them, it’s just water inside,” she lamented of her last hope of salvaging something from the farm.

Having quit her job to focus full time on farming, she has nothing to fall back on.

Janet Pullen, manager of marketing and training at the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), acknowledged that the sorrel crop in Clarendon had been almost totally wiped out.

Speaking to The Gleaner after a handover ceremony of COVID-19 assistance vouchers to farmers yesterday at the Denbigh Agriculture Showground, Pullen said that every farmer under the umbrella organisation had been negatively impacted by the rains.

She pointed out that livestock farmers had sustained significant losses as well.

“A lot of our farmers, especially those with small animals, suffered losses. Some lost their goats because of cramps [and] different types of colds in regard to their animals,” Pullen said.

Although Stephany Staple lost sweet peppers and other crops, she is still thanking God for “small blessings”.

“If I can cut some callaloo, I just smile and say, ‘At least all of it is not lost’. Despite the rain, COVID-19, and financial struggles, I just push through,” she said.

St Jago Farm Supplies has partnered with the JAS to give about 1,000 vouchers to farmers to be redeemed for fertilisers, seeds, and chemicals.

Vouchers will be issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and the JAS to farmers who have been most affected across the island. Losses have been estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

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