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Gillian Hyde, general manager, JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL) has urged local farmers to consider crop diversification, to remain viable; and adopt new farming techniques that would benefit the sector positively, during challenging times. 

“Some farmers have more than one source of income, mainly through crop diversification, and this has been useful, in managing credit,” she explained. “We encourage this farming practice, as it helps farmers to manage their cash-flows better, while they wait on longer term crop production, which provides opportunities for them to increase their income.”

Crop diversification provides a wider choice from which to expand the production of agricultural produce while reducing risks for farmers. It provides farmers with the opportunity to plant crops with varying production cycles and therefore benefit from more frequent harvesting and income periods. Crop diversification therefore, provides sustained income, reduces total crop failure, provides sustained supply to markets, and increases farmer’s income to meet other needs related to the household, saving and their well being. It is also a part of a new thrust from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce Agriculture and Fisheries, to encourage farmers to  produce a wider range of crops to supply targeted local markets.

For example, during a  forum at the Coffee Festival earlier this year, farmers were taught how they could diversify their production and explore new avenues to finance their ventures.

Carolyn McDonald-Riley, Director, Tourism Linkages Network, told coffee farmers that they could benefit from crop diversification through the ministry’s six-month old Agri-linkages Exchange (ALEX) platform, which was gaining traction among farmers seeking new markets.

Mrs Hyde also revealed that JNSBL trained its credit relations officers in climate smart agriculture best practices, to assist the more than 1,500 farmers in its loan portfolio about six years ago, after it was noted that many farmers found it difficult to honour their loan commitments, due to extreme climate conditions, such as drought and flooding. 

“That issue indicated that our farmers needed support to make their businesses climate resilient and adaptable to inevitable changes. We decided to assist them in whatever way possible; and pursued relevant training and funding sources, to provide sustainable responses to this challenge,” Mrs Hyde related.

She explained that farmers had experienced the negative effects of extreme climate conditions; and, therefore, many welcomed the opportunity to learn new techniques, such as and water and moisture management and acquire systems such as drip irrigation.

“They also sought guidance in respect of proper soil management techniques, to reduce the effects of flooding; and we have forged partnerships with relevant organisations, to assist where it is requested,” the JNSBL general manager stated.

It was further noted that, farmers who had multiple streams of income using crop diversification responded better to the negative impact of climatic variations and in some instances more agile to carry on business and continue earning. Farmers who employed climate smart systems also reduced impact.

She noted that, to encourage farmers to adopt new techniques, the JNSBL offers a Climate Smart Loan facility, financed by the Inter- American Development Bank (IDB), through the Pilot Project for Climate Resilience, facilitated by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, and the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ).

“The project seeks to provide greater accessibility to climate smart systems; and encourages the implementation of climate smart farming techniques in a low cost and flexible structure, taking advantage of flexible loan terms and grace periods,” she explained.

Last year, the JNSBL also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with brewing company Red Stripe to assist cassava farmers who were a part of Project Grow, an initiative that replaces imported high-maltose corn syrup, with cassava starch in its brewing process.

 JNSBL also has flexible collateral requirements for farmers and farm equipment, as well as household appliances, and other non-traditional items, can be used as collateral.

“We have also rolled out other loan products, which offer the Development Bank of Jamaica Credit Enhancement Facility, giving farmers a partial guarantee of up to 80 percent,” she explained. Mrs Hyde said that JNSBL remains committed to the sector, which has been targeted as an area which can assist Jamaica to achieve sustainable economic growth.

“JNSBL has always supported the agricultural sector,” the general manager explained. “Our agriculture portfolio has assisted persons from different areas of the sector, such as: livestock, poultry, fishery, and crop production, representing a mixture of micro and small farmers across our country.

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