Despite the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) anticipating a good Christmas season for the agricultural sector, several factors could impact the availability of some food supplies and their respective prices leading up to the holiday period.
These factors include seeds not germinating due to the excessive heat, lack of enough labour, and supply-chain issues being faced because of the slow movement of goods coming through the Panama Canal.
The outline was presented by RADA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Winston Simpson, during an interview with reporters on Thursday.
Simpson explained that there were challenges during the year that are now affecting food prices for consumers.
“One of the critical issues that most persons don’t seem to speak about is what causes any shortage or increase in prices,” he said.
“There are two critical factors. One is that a lot of the seeds did not germinate because of the heat we experienced this year,” Simpson stated.
The month of July was the hottest month recorded on Earth. The heat was further fuelled by the severe drought conditions which the island experienced between November last year to mid-September of this year.
Another factor affecting food supplies or price increases, according to Watson, is insufficient labour supply.
“A lot of farmers will tell you they have produced, but they need human capital to plant and reap,” said the RADA CEO.
Continuing, he said: “There was one farmer who called us from St Thomas who said he has over 10 acres of Scotch bonnet peppers and he needs hands to reap them, so we have to be looking at technology, tools and equipment to assist farmers in the coming year.
“We understand, and we know that once we improve our tools and equipment, then we can suppress the prices,” Watson declared.
In relation to the external factor, Simpson said the importation of things coming through the Panama Canal, such as seeds and fertilisers, is being delayed.
“So, sometimes the crop cycle is lengthened and the planting period is affected,” he indicated.
In Parliament on Tuesday, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, Floyd Green, advised citizens to brace for disruptions in domestic food supplies, especially for vegetables, consequent on the impact of heavy rains from Potential Tropical Cyclone 22 last month.
Some farmers had already warned of price increases for some crops as a result of the negative impact of weather conditions in November.