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There was a 14.4 per cent increase in domestic crop production for the October to December 2008 quarter, as compared to the similar quarter of 2007.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, presenting fourth quarter production figures at a press briefing held yesterday (Jan. 19) at his Hope Gardens office in Kingston, said that the sector overall, based on preliminary estimates, is showing an 8.0 per cent increase for the quarter.
In terms of domestic crops, which refer to those crops grown mainly by small farmers for consumption in the local market, all categories recorded growth.
In terms of condiments, this went up by 5 per cent; vegetables, 5.7 per cent; potatoes, 13.9 per cent; yam, 18.8 per cent; cereals, 20.9 per cent; legumes, 22.8 per cent; fruits, 33.2 per cent; and plantains 86.2 per cent.
Yam and vegetables were the most significant contributors to overall domestic crop production for the quarter, at 33.4 per cent and 32.05 per cent, respectively.
At the parish level, Dr. Tufton noted that there was a significant increase in production volume, with Trelawny, St. Elizabeth and Manchester contributing approximately 59 per cent of total production.
For Trelawny, there was a 44 per cent increase in production heavily weighted by yams; while St. Elizabeth recorded a 20 per cent growth in production driven by gains in potatoes at 80.4 per cent; yams, 59.7 per cent; fruits, 45.5 per cent; other tubers 37.9 per cent; and vegetables at 6.1 per cent.
Dr. Tufton informed that Manchester recorded a slight decline of less than 2 per cent, however the parish contributes more than 18 per cent of agriculture production overall.
In the meantime, Westmoreland, Hanover, St. James and Portland recorded declines in overall production during the quarter resulting from the effects of tropical storm Gustav in August, high cost of inputs and above normal rainfall for August and September. “The excessive rainfall clearly would have slowed down the production process as during these months, farmers tend to prepare the land for planting and they were hampered by rainfall,” Dr. Tufton explained.
In terms of traditional export crops, Dr. Tufton said that while there was some decline or the quarter, the data suggests that “we are moving in the right direction. Production of coffee increased by 43.4 per cent; cocoa, 244.1 per cent; and pimento, 160.3 per cent for the quarter.
The Agriculture Minister said noted that traditionally, banana production was measured by the export figures, but we have “taken a decision that we [are] now going to start capturing the domestic consumption of bananas as it is important and it contributes significantly to agricultural production.to the livelihoods of many farmers…and community throughout Jamaica.”
In the meantime, the Agriculture Minister commended the stakeholders in the sector for playing their part in the development of the sector. He noted the resilience, commitment and the hard work of the farmers across the island.
“The performance of the last quarter combined with the activities taking place is a testament to the fact that the sector has recovered and is expanding and is playing its part in providing food security,” he said.