Donkey shortage hampers farmers
Percival Blair has been all over the country trying to find donkeys. A good colt, he says, can run up to $45,000.
"It's the hardest things these days to get donkeys," he said.
Farmers in the sugar cane producing area of Top Hill in St Catherine depend on donkeys to take their produce from the hillsides to low ground.
Linton Thompson, 67, of Crofts Hill, is the owner of three donkeys, but he has no intention of selling them.
The same sentiment is shared by Errol Henry of Arthurs Seat, who also own three donkeys, the youngest of which he purchased last year as a colt for $25,000.
"If me fi sell him, a man caah offer me less than $35,000," he said.
Henry said that the scarcity of donkeys may be due to the fact that farmers tend to prefer having male donkeys, which are stronger and less likely to be violated by humans.
"Donkey round here, but a mainly Jack. Nobody nuh have no Jenny donkey cause you will tie yuh donkey and caah find him," Henry said.
At a nearby animal market at a place called British, persons told THE STAR that farmers are afraid of rearing female donkeys.
"Yuh have some man who a tie up di donkey dem. Dem tie dem up to dem neck fi work dem," one woman said.
The shortage is being blamed on bestiality, as well as a lack of interest in farming by young people.
One farmer in Arthurs Seat said he has heard the bestiality argument, but it has never been proven.
A Crofts Hill resident, however, dismissed this rumours, describing them as bar talk.
Meanwhile, Linton Thompson said that the donkey shortage in the area is very bad.
"Is one a two man have donkeys. Me breed my donkeys to mek sure me have donkey," he said.
Thompson said that he, like other older farmers, rely on donkeys to transport sugar cane from hillsides and to carry grass for cattle whenever there is none for them in their pastures.
In years gone by, according to Percival Blair, the Top Hill and Crofts Hill areas had plenty donkeys and mules. He said mules, which are the product of a horse and donkey mating, are practically non-existent as no one bothers to breed them anymore.
"The young people nuh have no interest inna dem thing deh," he said with a sigh.
And it may be such a pity since both communities have been using the beast of burden to not just assist on farms, but to provide entertainment through regular donkey races, which are popular in the Clarendon and St Catherine hills.