The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be lobbying for a $1.4-billion allocation in the next budget to rehabilitate more farm roads island-wide in the 2020/2021 financial year.
Minister without Portfolio J.C. Hutchinson made the disclosure during the official opening of the rehabilitated Dragoon to Flagstaff and Prosper to Tangle River roadways in South St. James on Wednesday (Jan 22).
He outlined that, so far, approximately $772 million has been spent on rehabilitating farm roads in 2019/2020, under the Government’s National Farm Road Rehabilitation Programme.
Hutchinson said the ministry now intends to have this figure doubled, in order to improve more farm roads and develop the economic viability of agricultural activities within rural Jamaica.
“We want to see if we can get $1.4 billion for farm roads alone in the next budget, because we feel that roads are a priority to the development of agriculture,” the state minister said.
He also indicated that in South St. James, the ministry aims to rehabilitate an additional five farm roads under the programme.
“There are many challenges that farmers have throughout the length and breadth of Jamaica, and so we are looking to see if we can solve many of these problems, and the first one we are addressing is farm roads,” Hutchinson explained.
“This area (South St. James) is looking up, as far as [agricultural] production is concerned,” he added.
Under the National Farm Road Programme, being implemented by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), more than 250 roads have been rehabilitated, to date, at a cost of $1.8 billion.
Another 72 roads are expected to be completed by the end of March of this year.
Within the communities where these two latest rehabilitated roadways are located, a total of 2,666 registered farmers are now benefiting from improved access to market. The roadways were rehabilitated at a cost of $8 million each.
Flagstaff resident and farmer, Evrode Senior, told JIS News that the new roadway is a blessing to the community.
“It will help us a lot. It will help the schoolchildren, and us farmers to get our produce out. Our produce used to spoil because no motor vehicle could go there to pick it up and go to market. We had to carry it out on our heads. It was really awful, but now we are thankful,” she said.
Another farmer of Tangle River, Robert Campbell, said the roadway is a welcome development that the residents proudly accept and will maintain.