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Farmers to get compensation today

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The first set of money disbursed to farmers affected by the Leaf Spot disease, Yellow Sigatoka, will be made today, Friday, April 4.{{more}}

Speaking at a Press Conference on Monday, Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel, said approximately 492 farmers will be paid EC$250 per acre, as compensation for their affected farms. This money, he said, was from a donation of EC$1.5 million from Taiwanese Ambassador Jack Cheng, which will be used to assist with the rehabilitation of banana farms on the island.

“Three hundred and forty-two farmers really would have done all of their cleaning and are ready for the payments. One hundred and fifty farmers have not completed, but the Ministry of Agriculture has taken the position that we would pay all of the 492 farmers for the cleaning up operations and to have their fields restored as soon as possible,” he told reporters.

Payments, he said, will be made through the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Banana Growers Association (SVGBA) through the normal pay packet.

Minister Daniel stated that the farmers who have already cleaned their fields will also be given an allotment of three sacks of fertilisers, on a per acre basis, to assist with the replanting of their farms.

He continued: “so that they are not only receiving cash in their cleaning up but also receiving fertilisers to boost the fields so that the fields will be able to come back as soon as possible.”

Close to 1043 farm acres were affected by the Leaf Spot disease causing a cut back of 47,310 bunches of bananas.

According to Minister Daniel, compensation for the cut back bunches will be received directly through the Windward Islands Banana Development and Exporting Company (WIBDECO).

He appealed to workers of the local branch of WIBDECO to speed up their work so affected farmers who have to be reimbursed for bunch loss will be able to receive their compensation packages quickly.

“I am hoping that within the next two weeks that this compensation could reach the farmers.”

Minister Daniel said government is continuing with its efforts to assist farmers “…as much as possible”. He said, of the EC $1.5 million, the arrowroot industry will receive $150,000 to aide in the expansion of the industry and EC$100,000 will go towards the food production plan.

The Leaf spot disease is common in banana fields but was kept below the threshold levels and under control by a stringent disease control program managed over the years by the SVGBA.

Effects of the upsurge in the Leaf Spot disease was felt as early as February 2008 through the drastic fall in the quantity of fruits exported to the United Kingdom (UK) from this country. Fruits from affected fields become ripe during shipment (ship ripe) and generally have a spotted appearance that is unacceptable on the UK markets.

Figures indicate that the ship ripe bananas had climbed to a record level of 7% but has been reduced to 2%.

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