Opposition Spokesman on Water and Agriculture, Lothan Cousins, has said that the vast majority of consumers are facing a crisis when they go to the supermarket and the markets.
Cousins, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Clarendon South Western, made the comment on Tuesday as he responded to a statement from Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, Floyd Green, in the House of Representatives.
Green told the House that the flood rains associated with Tropical Cyclone 22 that impacted the island on November 17, resulted in more than $173 million in crop damage. This, he said, would likely result in food shortages and price increases, especially in relation to vegetables.
The minister told the House that the Government is providing $157 million in assistance to affected farmers to help them get back on their feet.
In responding, Cousins said “It is no secret that the cost for basic vegetables has increased exponentially; we all would have encountered that in our households.
“We can appreciate that the vast majority of Jamaicans are also experiencing that increased cost of tomatoes, cabbage, carrot, lettuce – you name it,” added Cousins.
Floyd Green (file photo)
He argued that while the flood damage “would have set us back,” information provided by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) is that the July to September quarter experienced a decrease of nine per cent when compared to the corresponding period of 2022.
“So we would have known from then that we were in a crisis, and that there would be a significant shortfall,” he said.
“What the PIOJ referenced as the cause of that decrease was one, lower yields; and two, reduced areas harvested. So it appeared as if there was not an appetite during that period for persons to start the farming process,” Cousins continued.
He said that while the country is now confronted with the flood damage, it was not the only cause of the shortfall in production.
Green hit back at Cousins, suggesting that he had a political motive for his comments. The minister acknowledged that drought played a part in lower yields this year, but insisted that farmers and fishers are gearing up for a good year, despite the setbacks. He said the Government is willing to provide assistance wherever it is needed.