Cedrick Ramsay is making 93 percent less profit from farming this season – his biggest single loss in the 30 years he has been involved in agriculture.
He attributes the loss mainly to Government’s sudden decision to virtually lock down the parish of St. Catherine from April 15 to May 1.
The virtual lockdown, which was implemented to help minimize the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), significantly restricted business operation and the movement of people within the parish.
“I was doing fairly well before COVID-19 and the lock-down,” said Ramsay, who lives at Polly Ground district in Ewarton, St. Catherine.
He further recalled: “I did start to reap the crops. I went to Linstead Market once and, when I was planning to go back, I heard that the government implemented a lock-down. I didn’t get to go to the market after that, and the drought was creeping on me.”
Ramsay said he lost more than 1000 pounds of sweet peppers, and about the same amount of tomatoes because he could not reap or sell the crops.
He explained that, at one point, he managed to secure an order to deliver $25,000 worth of tomatoes to Kingston.
The police blocked him from leaving St. Catherine to make the delivery in Kingston.
“Mi have over $25,000 worth of order carrying to deliver in a van. The police at the border of St. Catherine turn mi back even after mi show the tomatoes to them. All the things mi haffi carry back home. Them spoil, and mi haffi give the van-man $5,000 for chartering his van,” Ramsay told The Beacon.
He further stated that, in his frantic rush to salvage some of the crops, he reached out to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) in Linstead.
“RADA promised me faithfully that they would send someone [to purchase the crops]. When I was contacted by that individual, the things already could not reap from the field. They had to just stay there because they were soft and withered. No one want them anymore,” Ramsay explained.
He, in the meantime, told The Beacon that the ‘unexpected’ and protracted dry season compounded his loss.
“The month of May always give us some rain, and we always get one and two showers before May, but this year we got nothing,” Ramsay lamented.
He said the remaining sweet peppers, along with cabbage now on his farm, will spoil if there is no rainfall within the next two days.
Ramsay, who said he does not have an irrigation system, is afraid to purchase portable water tanks due to rampant theft from farmers in his community.
Ramsay has been a farmer since 1990, but he did not register with RADA until 2004.
Before venturing into farming, he cut grass on farms and burned coal for a living.
He said it was a failed romantic relationship that drove him onto the farm.
“I did have a girlfriend that I loved some much, and she leave mi. Mi feel like I would kill myself, but the spirit said no. I just take up farming for it – just go in the bush and start farm and try to forget the whole thing,” he explained.
Ramsay, who once worked in Canada under the government’s Overseas Employment Programme, said plantain was the first crop he planted when he started farming.
However, praedial larceny prompted his switch to vegetables.
“Vegetable farming is very tender. It costs us so much and sometimes you don’t mek nothing at all,” Ramsay said, adding that the cost of fertilizer and pesticides is relatively high.
He continued: “I do a little selling at Linstead Market, but some of the times the things are so cheap that you don’t mek back nothing at all.”
Ramsay stated that, despite significant losses, he does not intend to quit farming.
He thinks agriculture is still relevant, even for today’s young people.
“If you have the right land and water, farming is payable. What affected me the most is that I live where there is no river – no rainfall more than the ordinary, and no land. All the land that I work on is people’s land,” Ramsay said. “If mi get little assistance, that would be good. If I don’t get any, I won’t give up, because farming is really my lines.”
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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