Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw has said that adverse weather conditions have led to $1 billion in losses in the sector over the past two years.
Shaw, who was speaking at the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in Clarendon last Saturday, said it is necessary to pursue ways to mitigate the unpredictable cycle of climate change “that is beginning to have a sustained depreciating impact on agricultural production”.
“Over the past five years, the agriculture sector in the Caribbean has been affected by shifts in weather patterns. We have experienced significant episodes of prolonged droughts, frequent intense rainfall, flooding and hurricanes. Climate-related natural disasters, especially hurricane and drought, could result in losses estimated at US$22 billion annually by 2050 throughout the Caribbean,” Shaw noted.
He outlined urgent and critical strategic imperatives to achieve increased and sustainable production in the agricultural sector, among them: Provision of more irrigation systems; implementing more drought-resistant measures such as water harvesting and storage; application of new technologies to include drones and alternative energy sources; coordinated value chain-driven partnerships and linkages between agriculture and industry; and increased efforts to establish agricultural insurance schemes.
In July, the minster introduced crop modelling to mitigate climate change impact on agricultural stakeholders in Jamaica, pointing out that it is a tool that is used extensively in global agriculture with benefits such as the maximisation of farmers’ crop yields, improvement of research and extension capabilities, and informing sustainable and effective planning.
“It is worth repeating that grant funding from the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund, administered through the Caribbean Development Bank, in an amount equivalent to £35,515 million will go towards the cost of the Essex Valley Agricultural Development Project,” he said.
“We recognise that there are several persistent challenges and constraints facing the agricultural sector, chief among these, of course, being the impact of climate change,” he said.