March 1, 2011

PM: Some farmers misusing Tomas assistance

Some farmers here have abused the financial support that was given to them by Government to assist with restoring their farms, which were damaged by Hurricane Tomas late last year.{{more}}

This has forced the Ministry of Agriculture to remove the names of some farmers from the original list of persons who were provided with financial support and fertilizer in the initial phase.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves made the disclosure last Sunday, February 27, at a political meeting held at Richland Park.

He said that officials at the Ministry of Agriculture had already prepared another list, which had already been approved and was available at the Treasury, to ensure that payments are made in relation to the amended list.

The Prime Minister said that he had also been informed that the payment of financial support to farmers was expected to resume sometime this week.

Gonsalves, however, warned that although the problem had been rectified, there were still going to be instances where some persons would be making claims that farmers who received assistance did not restore their farms, while others who did restorative work did not receive any compensation from the Government.

In such cases, the Prime Minister advised persons with queries to direct them to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture or the Chief Agricultural Officer.

He said the situation had been brought to his attention that there had been some farmers who had received payments, as well as fertilizer, in the aftermath of the storm, but had done nothing to bring their farms back to full production.

“There are a few farmers within various communities who took the $400 to clear the acre, took fertilizer – some even sold the fertilizer – but they did absolutely nothing to get back into agriculture,” Gonsalves said.

He explained that this situation has forced the Ministry of Agriculture to visit farms to ascertain whether or not these persons had in fact been clearing land.

Gonsalves said that although some farmers did not replant bananas, there were other areas of production that they could have gotten into.

“So that you can’t expect if you got the first set of monies to fix up land and get three sacks of fertilizer per acre and getting income support that you going to continue to get and not do anything to your land. What are we giving you for?” he questioned.

“It is not a social welfare payment, it is a payment for you to get back into agricultural production,” Gonsalves said, adding that it is not fair for some people to sit down and get the Government’s money, while such persons did not want to engage in farm production, for one reason or the other. (DD)