The agriculture sector in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) suffered the brunt of the damage from the eruptions of the La Soufriere volcano last April, suffering around 52.1% of the losses incurred.
None of its sub-sectors escaped the most severe fallout in the northeastern and western corridors of the continent.
Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar addressed the issue as he delivered his contribution to the 2022 budget in Parliament last week, Friday January 14, noting that: “The years 2020 and 2021 have been challenging with multiple ups and downs. affecting the development and growth of agriculture. and the fishing sector.
He pointed out that in 2021, fish landings decreased by 19.9% and 17% in value and weight, respectively, compared to the previous year.
Around 800 fishermen from across the island were affected, of whom 278 were relocated. It was reported that 11 ships with their engines and other equipment were damaged.
“The estimated damage and loss to the fishery is EC$5.73 million, of which EC$0.72 million, representing damage and loss of EC$5.013 million,” Minister Caesar said. .
The Minister also pointed out that the crops sub-sector accounted for a total of 50.4% of the damages and losses in the agricultural sector. This percentage of damage represented 16.7% of the overall damage and 78.1% of the losses.
Citing the executive summary of the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, he said that a total of “4,151 acres of crops were… destroyed or damaged, including tree crops on 3,045 acres, roots and tubers on 693 acres, and fruits and vegetables on 413 acres.
“About 1,028 acres [comprising] 543 bananas and 485 [acres]plantains were damaged throughout the country… The total damage to the two crops is estimated at EC$10.08 million, while the loss is valued at EC$26.56 million.
The PDNA report compiled by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), following the 32 eruptions of the La Soufrière volcano, from April 9 to 22, 2021, indicates that: branches and leaf stripping of certain trees, in some cases breaking of trees. The entire fruit tree sector was impacted, ranging from 7% damage in the green zone to 100% damage in the red zone.
“Cocoa, coconuts, avocado, breadfruit and mangoes have all been badly affected. It is estimated that approximately 2,017.9 acres of tree crops were damaged, with total estimated effects of EC$44.92 million, damage of EC$3.96 million and losses of EC$40.96 million. EC$.
Further, the report states that: “Among tree crops, the coconut industry suffered severe damage and loss, where 1,350 acres were affected for a total value of damage and loss of $23.04 million. EC dollars.
Over 693 acres of root crops were estimated damaged; these being listed as sweet potatoes, eddoes, yams, cassava, arrowroot, turmeric and ginger. Damage was assessed at EC$2.00 million and loss at EC$17.75 million. These crops were 80% damaged in the red and orange areas.
Whatever root crops survived the impact of the ash, they were indirectly damaged by livestock that were let loose and ravaged the remaining plants.
Total arrowroot crop production for 2020 was estimated at 440 metric tons, and according to the report, “An estimated 98 unharvested acres were totally damaged due to ashfall ranging from 4 to 6 inches. In addition to the damage to the arrowroot crop, the roof of the Owia factory also collapsed, resulting in an estimated loss of starch of EC$511,875.00. Arrowroot damage and loss, including field harvest and stored tubers and starch, is estimated at EC$2.00 million.
Fruits and vegetables were 100% damaged in the red and orange zones, as it was mainly the peak season for tomatoes, peppers and cabbage in the North Windward and North Leeward zones, the red volcanic zones and orange, which together produce up to 73% of the vegetables grown on 568 acres of land in SVG.
Total damage and loss for fruits and vegetables is estimated at EC$14.73 million, with damage being EC$1.31 million, while losses amounting to EC$13.42 million.
Many cannabis growers whose entire harvest has been decimated have suffered an even greater setback.
The report put the preliminary estimate of the impact of the rashes at over EC$45,976,000.00, covering both the legal and illicit areas of the marijuana industry.
The livestock sub-sector, including poultry, suffered damage estimated at EC$1.51 million in all areas, and losses estimated at EC$1.65 million.
The PDNA report found that established plantations and natural forest suffered over 65% damage in the red, orange and yellow zones. The estimated damage to the forestry sub-sector amounts to EC$84.053 million, with losses estimated at EC$20.567 million.
According to the environmental impact report, volcanic hazards have catastrophically destroyed fishing villages and turtle nesting beaches in Sandy Bay and Owia on the windward side of mainland St. Vincent, and Rose Bank, Chateaubelair , Fitz Hughes and Richmond on the lee side.
Wallibou Beach, a known nesting area for turtles, was destroyed and is now flooded by the sea. Several rivers on the windward side of the island known for ‘tri-tri’ harvesting were also destroyed and cannot no longer function in this capacity.
The report notes that agricultural infrastructure also suffered significant damage, including the agricultural biotechnology center, arrowroot and cassava factories, fisheries complex, CARDI field station, livestock center of the ministry of Agriculture, Langley Park Palletizing Center and Perseverance Farm Station as well as several green houses.
Added to this was damage to bridges and roads resulting indirectly from erosion due to heavy rains, lahars and pyroclastic flows.
The report sheds light on the response to rebuilding and rehabilitating the agricultural sector in SVG.