Minister Outlines Measures to Increase Agricultural Production


Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, has announced a number of initiatives which the Ministry will be introducing to intensify agricultural production within the island.
Among the measures to be introduced is the establishment of an Agro-Investment Corporation, which is intended to package and promote medium and large scale investments in an effort to drive production in the sector.
The Corporation will act as a one-stop facility within the Ministry and is intended to work closely with the Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI) and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce.
Making his contribution to the 2009/10 Sectoral Debate, in the House of Representatives on July 7, Dr. Tufton noted that while small farming is critical, the Ministry aims to encourage and “organise them in groups and service them as a group, rather than as individuals.”
This strategy, he noted, has worked through community based farmers’ groups called Production and Marketing Organisations (PMOs).
He noted that 76 per cent of farmers in Jamaica, of some 200,000 farmers, are considered small farmers, cultivating on one hectare or less.
“The trend towards smaller farms is expanding, which effectively means that we are splintering our farm lands and although there is value in small farming, it compromises our ability as a country to achieve certain economies of scale, particularly involving certain crops,” the Minister argued.
Dr. Tufton pointed out that critical to the agro-investment process is land reform measures to identify suitable land investment. “This year we intend to promote the use of these lands by linking agro investors with those lands that have the infrastructure, that are not being used, that are owned by the Government, and where the lands are privately owned, we are going to invite the owners to put those lands under production,” he said, adding that this is important if productivity and the production levels are to be increased.
He noted that the Ministry would be focussing on identifying and engaging the best agricultural lands, primarily lands with irrigation infrastructure.
“The National Irrigation Commission (NIC) scheme represents some 28,700 hectares with a land utilisation of 45 per cent. Over the next three years, the NIC is expected to put in another 2,000 acres of land to add to those arable lands,” he said.
He informed that a Committee was launched last year involving the National Land Agency, the National Irrigation Commission and Rural Physical Planning, to look at the agricultural lands that are in the country and what is being done with those lands.

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