Broken pump hampering farms at New Forest/Duff House agro-park

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Member of Parliament for Manchester Southern, Michael Stewart, is urging the authorities to restore a broken pump at the New Forest/Duff House agro-park, which has triggered an undersupply of irrigation water to farmers.

Stewart recalled that when the agro-park was first established in 2014, four wells were dug which adequately supplied hundreds of farmers with irrigation water.

He noted that since last year, one pump has “gone down” and the result is that many farmers are without sufficient water.

“I am calling on the relevant authorities to reinstall the pump so that all the farmers in the agro-park can get water in sufficient quantities,” Stewart said.

When the Jamaica Observer made a fast-moving visit to New Forest/Duff House agro-park in late April, farmers showed acres of matured scallion which they said had rotted at the root largely because of inadequate water to sustain it after sales were cut in half as a direct result of COVID-19.

The farmers explained that in good times, the scallion would have been reaped and sold to contracted food processors. However, the onset of COVID-19, the collapse of the tourist industry and the closure of hotels, meant demand for their crop plummeted.

“Grace[Kennedy] used to take 30,000 pounds, all of a sudden they only tekking 15,000 pounds,” said Walter Samuda, who supervises a 10-acre scallion farm on behalf of his nephew, Simon Christian.

Samuda explained that with irrigation water significantly reduced — apparently because of the pump breakdown — and only one significant shower of rain in April, up to six acres of scallion died.

Stewart lamented that the water problem was especially annoying since the well affected by the pump failure was extremely productive, providing truckloads of water on a daily basis for farmers from elsewhere.

Stewart also called for a packaging house — built a few years ago with the help of the Inter-American Development Bank — to be opened and for a planned processing plant to be built to allow farmers on the agro-park to more easily offload their produce.

“The building (packaging house) is there unoccupied and the farmers also need a facility for processing of their produce,” the MP said.

— Garfield Myers

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