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Drought Conditions in Jamaica

Drought Conditions in Jamaica

If you follow the coffee industry to any degree beyond purchasing and consuming, you have seen that the coffee prices are in a volatile state due to drought conditions in Brazil, the World’s largest grower/supplier of coffee. Since the 2014 crop is coming to harvest and the rainfall has cooperated, the “panic” that was the coffee futures in March 2014 has subsided as commodity prices have been coming down.

But what about all the smaller countries such as Jamaica who already have a minimal output and are struggling to recover from the leaf rust epidemic that shorted the 2013 crop by almost 30%? That is the fear that is setting in as the two main growing regions in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains – St. Thomas and Portland are facing drought conditions. This is due to the climate changes we are facing Globally. Where rain was plentiful, it has now recessed, hotter is cooler, and cooler climates are becoming hotter.

At 40% capacity. The water level should be to the top of the sides, with no land to be seen.

You can see the full article from the Jamaica Gleaner courtesy of Go-Jamaica HERE. Jamaica’s Water Minister, Robert Pickersgill explains that May 2014 was the hottest month on record and this year is predicted to be the hottest year in Jamaica since 1880. This is coupled with El Nino which was also present the last time there were drought conditions on the island, and is expected to dig in further as the year moves along.

You can see the interview HERE: Water crisis forces prohibition order In Jamaica

The Farming Community in the Blue Mountains relies primarily on rain fall for irrigation throughout the year, and with the shade grown coffee, it can withstand a bit less irrigation, but drought conditions are effecting the coffee crops even at that. There are restrictions for use being put on several parishes on the eastern side if the island. The reservoir is operating at 40% capacity with only 38% of it’s normal rate of inflow the Mona  Reservoir in St Andrew. There is debate on whether this is a climate change or a miscalculation by man over the last 50 years. Read more HERE in an article from The Jamaica Observer on Wednesday July 23rd 2014.

Regardless of the impetus, a solution needs to be met so we aren’t in conditions such as this every year, even though a “dry season” is expected in the Caribbean islands. As is evident, an irrigation system must be implemented if things are going to change. As stated in an article by Anastasia Cunningham in  The Jamaica Gleaner July 28th 2014, President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Senator Norman Grant, is in full support of using treated effluent to irrigate crops in the agriculture sector, as part of a long-term solution to Jamaica’s recurring water woes. Quoted from the article ” The high-cost factor was the main reason this system has not yet been implemented; however, under the climate-change initiative, Jamaica can now seek grant funding, as well as source long-term financing to put in place the necessary infrastructure to have treated effluent in full use in the agriculture sector.”

So if you are given lemons, make lemonade.  When drought conditions occur, find a way to alleviate the pressure by using existing resources. Several countries have been using the practice of using treated waste water as a source of irrigation as Senator Grant witnessed on a recent trip to Kenya. “Climate change is going to continue, so what we need to do is to ensure that we use this opportunity to implement strategies to fix the problem. I support the view that the country is not short of water to meet the demands, we just need to develop strategies and implement solutions to deal with the problem,”  Senator Grant said.

The impact of climate change, its effect on the agriculture sector, and possible solutions will be on the agenda at this year’s Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, scheduled for this weekend, from August 1-3, at the Denbigh Showground in May Pen, Clarendon.

As Coffee farmers, Reggie’s Roast Coffee is all too aware of both the beautiful, positive effects as well as  the negative effects of Mother Nature. From our soil to your cup, Cheers!