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JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands is reporting that some 1,234 hectares of the projected 1,700 hectares of fruit trees have been planted since the implementation of the Fruit Tree Crop project in 2003.
Speaking with JIS News, Director of Projects at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Harold Spaulding, pointed out that the Ministry saw the need to encourage the planting of fruit trees to meet the demand for locally grown fruits for the local and international agro-processing trade.
“It came out of the recognition that fruits in general were in short supply at certain times of the year,” he said. “Fruits are required for both the fresh and processing trade, therefore, when you have a business, supplies will not only have to be regular, but you should be able to predict quantities that would be available in order to plan for your business,” he explained.
The project initially targeted some 14 fruit tree crops, including ackee, breadfruit, cashew, soursop, tamarind, mango and jackfruit.
Although the project targets the production of a variety of fruit trees, RADA has placed a major focus on the planting of ackee trees. This, he said, was in an effort to meet the growing international demand for the fruit. Already the organization has planted some 1,000 hectares of the trees.
Mr. Spaulding explained that a major focus of the project was to encourage the production of crops in orchards, which he revealed, eventually leads to an increase in production yields.
“We try to encourage the establishment of orchards because what has happened in the past was that fruit trees were grown without proper technical application and were only remembered in time for reaping, after which they were neglected. Output was really low, trees were overgrown, reaping became difficult and life threatening and you really couldn’t build on an industry based on such a practice,” he explained.
Continuing, he noted that farmers are not only encouraged to plant crops in orchards, but are also assisted in rehabilitating existing ones.
“What we recognize is that if we rehabilitate these trees to manageable heights, we could create almost new trees from the existing ones by cutting them back along certain lines and allowing them to send up new growth, hence causing them to produce once more,” the Project Director pointed out, and explained that this was giving up vertical growth for lateral growth, so the trees would expand and allow for easy reaping.
Mr. Spaulding said that farmers were realizing the benefits of trimming trees even while they were producing, in order to improve harvesting.
Additional assistance is given in the form of land preparation and acquisition of pesticides and fertilizers. “We still give farmers the choice of determining what type of help they need, however, we give assistance not exceeding $25,000 per half a hectare of land,” he advised.
Farmers involved in the project are encouraged to inter crop by planting short-term crops with fruit trees. This will allow them to have an income during the years before the longer-term fruit trees are ready for harvesting.
Persons interested in becoming involved in the Fruit Tree Crop Project may visit the RADA office in their parish and speak with an Extension Officer for more information.