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Jamaican crops threatened by "disastrous" drought

Drought threatens Jamaican crops

By Earl Moxam, Reuters, The Boston Globe, March 21, 2000 

KINGSTON, Jamaica - Jamaica is grappling with a disastrous drought that has wilted crops, drained reservoirs, and forced authorities to make plans to truck water to parched parishes.

Rainfall has tumbled to a quarter of normal levels in some regions of the usually lush Caribbean island of 2.5 million people. Jamaica's Rural Agricultural Development Authority reported crop losses of about $6 million for the last six months and officials warned of an impending shortage of vegetables.

Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke described the situation as ''disastrous right throughout the island, especially with regard to domestic agriculture.''

The National Meteorological Office said only three parishes recorded normal levels of rainfall for January - Kingston, St. Andrew, and St. Mary. The 11 others had below average rainfall for December and January, with Clarendon at only 24 percent and Westmoreland at 27 percent of normal.

Officials of the National Water Commission said the drought has resulted in a reduction of the volume of water in streams.

For most of Jamaica's farmers, the drought is made worse by the fact that there are no major irrigation systems outside of the sugar belt parishes.

While dry weather is good for reaping cane, Clarke said the cane being harvested is of poor quality because of the lack of rain. He said there would soon be a shortage of vegetables owing to drought on the plains of the southern parish of St. Elizabeth, where most of Jamaica's vegetables are grown.

This story ran on page A08 of the Boston Globe on 3/21/2000.
Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.