Farm workers anxious to see the back of COVID-19

March 27, 2020
In this 2011 photo,Jamaican farm workers, Ron Granville Bent (left) and Peter Elvy, pick York apples in an orchard west of Winchester, Virginia in the USA.
In this 2011 photo,Jamaican farm workers, Ron Granville Bent (left) and Peter Elvy, pick York apples in an orchard west of Winchester, Virginia in the USA.
In this 2017 photo, labour minister Shahine Robinson greets some farm workers who are heading off on the overseas employment programme.
In this 2017 photo, labour minister Shahine Robinson greets some farm workers who are heading off on the overseas employment programme.
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The United States (US) Embassy in Kingston says it continues to process visas for temporary farm workers.

This is despite the spread of COVID-19, which has, among other things, forced the embassy to suspend its public visa services.

"Jamaican farm workers provide critical support to US agriculture and bring tens of millions in earnings back to the island that help support families and small businesses throughout the country," Donald Tapia, the US ambassador to Jamaica, said in a tweet this week.

He said that the USA is "committed to tackling" COVID-19 "on all fronts", and in the interest of global food security, the visa processing will take place.

American produce growers are bracing for a devastating impact on their fruit and vegetables crops because of a shortage of farm workers.

"There won't be anyone to harvest the crops," said Robert Guenther, senior vice-president for public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, as he was quoted by Time.com.

"It will be devastating to growers and, ultimately, to the supply chain and consumers. They won't have the food," he said.

Delly, a St Ann man who has travelled on the programme numerous times, is anxious about returning to the US to work.

Virus ting blow over

"We a expect fi get call even at a later time this year, when this virus ting blow over. The people dem still have them farm up deh and without we, it cyah come to perfection," he said.

Delly told THE WEEKEND STAR that he is frustrated about not being able to leave, because all his plans have come to a halt.

"The corona ting definitely a get to me now, because me did a plan seh this year me can go over go make a money so me can take care a some tings. All me house nuh done yet and me did plan fi do some work pon it," he said.

Even though disheartened, Delly said he now has no choice but to resort to his old way of survival.

"A construction is my way of living, so now me just affi go out and try to make a living. As long as one ting nah gwaan, me affi find supm else," he said.

Kevin, another person who would have left for the US to work in the hotel and food service this May, told THE WEEKEND STAR that he is hoping things will be back to regular activity soon.

"It rough, me nah lie. When I leave and work, a whole heap a tings me get fi do when me come back, like start a likkle business and ting. Me just a pray seh this virus ting pass and nuh badda hold up the progress," he said.

"A nuh just me alone either, other people a wait fi go make a living too. But me see dem a send home people, so me just a wonder," he added.

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