Valley of Peace farmers receive some good news

Green Tropics, a Spanish company involved in sugar cane cultivation, is accused of conducting aerial spraying in the Valley of Peace community which is the main supplier of vegetables in the Cayo area. The spraying has caused destruction of acres of vegetables but today after weeks of uncertainty, the vegetables farmers received some good news of sorts. Isani Cayetano has been following this story and has an update. 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

An association of twenty-six aggrieved farmers in the Valley of Peace community are a step closer to recovering their losses, following the extensive spraying of commercial produce with a toxic herbicide two weeks ago.  The crop-dusting exercise was carried out by Green Tropics Ltd., a foreign agriculture concern which manages a sixteen thousand acre plot adjacent to farmland being cultivated by the villagers.  This morning, Chief Agricultural Officer Roberto Harrison met with the planters to give an update on the status of the external testing being done to conclusively determine whether the damages were caused by Roundup.

Roberto Harrison

Roberto Harrison, Chief Agricultural Officer

“The crop assessment is still ongoing.  Yesterday we had a remake of the assessment, we just wanted to ensure that the number of crops [that were] damaged was correct.  This morning I met with the farmer group just to update them on that process.  We have sent our samples to a lab in [El] Salvador which should confirm by next week Wednesday or Thursday the latest if in fact the damage was done by Roundup and the other chemicals that were used.”

Roundup is a systemic herbicide containing glyphosate which is used to kill unwanted plants, particularly annual broadleaf weeds and grasses known to compete with commercial crops in arable fields.  Green Tropics Ltd. is said to have been spraying its acreage where sugarcane crop is being grown when the incident occurred.

Roberto Harrison

“We’re looking at about an estimated thirty acres of cabbage and other small acreage of tomatoes, pepper and cucumber.”

Isani Cayetano

“What is the reception or the feedback from the farmers when you met with them this morning?”

Roberto Harrison

“Well they are quite happy on how we are moving along and keeping them informed.  I think they were a bit concerned that they were not seeing, in their words, not seeing much done.  As I explained to them, we want to ensure that the process is done technically and sound and that the wait is necessary.  We want to confirm with our lab tests that in fact the damage was as a result of chemicals, the chemical Roundup used in the spraying, you know.”

In the aftermath of the disaster, it was initially reported that a significant portion of a two-hundred acre spread was affected by the spraying of the deadly chemical.  The breadth of the damage has since been reduced to about thirty acres.  That’s roughly fifteen percent of the total landmass being used for cultivation.  The reduction, will inevitably affect the amount Valley of Peace Farmers Association will be compensated.  Joining the assessment team are representatives of Green Tropics.

Roberto Harrison

“They were out there yesterday as well doing the count with us.  I guess, their concern about it in any case and by being there means that they are an interested party in the process.”

Preliminary estimates placed the loss of vegetables at more or less a million dollars, it is expected, however, that the quantum of damages will amount to less.  Green Tropics’ country rep, on the other hand, says the company is awaiting conclusive results from the sample testing before offering comment to the media.  News Five understands that they are prepared to compensate the farmers if indeed the company is held responsible for the incident.  While numbers are being calculated for loss of produce, environmentalists are yet to determine a value for the destruction of forest cover, as well as wildlife that inhabit its environs. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Channel 5