90,000 Farmers Registered with ABIS


Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke informed the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament on Wednesday (April 7) that currently there were some 150,000 farmers in Jamaica and that some 90,000 of those were registered and verified through the Agricultural Business Information System (ABIS).
Addressing concerns voiced by Opposition Members of Parliament over what measures should be taken to address praedial larceny, Mr. Clarke said the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) was an integral part of that process. He explained that through close collaboration between the JAS branch network islandwide and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), farmers would be identified and registered.
He further assured that extension officers in the system were, with the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), facilitate the verifying of farmers where praedial larceny is concerned.
Mr. Clarke noted that it was in the interest of new farmers to get registered and that the public education programme would assist these farmers to come on board with RADA. “They will have an opportunity to get registered. These farmers are going to have to get onto to the receipt book system if praedial larceny is going to be dealt with,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Mr. Clarke informed that the marketing system was set to commence on May 1. Already, he said, a building had been acquired and three refrigerated trucks had been handed over. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding had been established with hotel and supermarket chains.
He said an important part of the marketing system would be the grading of produce and that there was a processing system in place for whatever rejects there were.
The Ministry will provide the database of farmers and all related crop production, which will assist the JAS with implementing this central marketing system.
Mr. Clarke noted that there had been a renewed interest in the JAS stemming from the fact that the organisation had become more active. “This is not a start from scratch situation. The farmers are already producing. All the JAS will do is organize them having identified the markets,” Mr. Clarke said.
Answering questions about the tree crop initiative, the Agriculture Minister pointed out that the allocation for the Tree Crop Programme had been increased from $7.4 million in the previous budget to $26 million in the current budget. This project, he assured did not preclude the smaller farmers. He further said that young people were becoming involved in agriculture, particularly through the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, which now had a membership of some 40,000.
Mr. Clarke said the Ministry was in discussions with the National Works Agency regarding agricultural roads and that under the European Union funded Stabex project, work was being done on roads in parishes including Manchester, St. Mary, St. Elizabeth, St. Ann and St. Thomas. Some $92 million is being spent on the programme this year.

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