General Manager of the Banana Board, Janet Conie, is imploring banana farmers to contribute to the Catastrophe Fund, which will provide them with some level of insurance in the event of a natural disaster. Speaking to JIS News following a tour of a number of banana farms in St. Mary on October 26, Mrs. Conie pointed out that following the recent passage of Hurricane Sandy on October 24, farmers who have been contributing to the Fund will receive assistance in the coming weeks.
"What we are asking is that farmers contribute to the Fund - contribute to their own 'insurance'," she implored. "It's a Fund that was seeded with European Union (EU) funding and what we want is for farmers to build the fund to benefit their own programmes," she added.
The Catastrophe Fund, which is a little over $50 million, is managed by the Banana Board and was established in 2007 to help with the speedy recovery of the island’s banana industry in the wake of natural disasters. Mrs. Conie stressed that the support mechanism is a contributory Fund. Hence, farmers will only be able to benefit in the event of a disaster if they have been making regular contributions to the initiative. "Farmers must register with us. At the beginning of every year, we go on a drive and we make it very public. We go out into the banana communities and we really try to get farmers to contribute to their own recovery," she noted.
She said that the Fund only asks for $2,500 per hectare per year, “and with that you’re able to get much more." Mrs. Conie pointed out however, that some farmers have shied away from the initiative because of a number of concerns. "What farmers are most concerned about is that ‘if I pay into the Fund and there’s no damage this year, do I benefit?’ [But] you cannot benefit from the Fund without a catastrophe,” she advised. Mrs. Conie further informed that in 2010, the Banana Board paid out some $10 million to farmers following the passage of Hurricane Nicole, under the Catastrophe Fund.
“What we did was to look at the level of damage. We looked at what the Fund could put forward and then we pro-rated the level of damage per acre, per farmer and we made a contribution towards buying the inputs to get them back into production. Those farmers benefitted quite well,” she said. In 2011, some 266 farmers registered for the Catastrophe Fund. There are more than 200,000 farmers across Jamaica.