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    Further strengthening of the support system for farmers and other key stakeholders in the agricultural industry is expected during 2009/10, as $9 million has been allocated to the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP).
    This is outlined in the Estimates of Expenditure, currently before the House of Representatives.
    The project, funded by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) and the Government of Jamaica, aims to enhance the quality and delivery of agricultural support services mainly through improving extension, marketing and research services; upgrading existing systems for safeguarding animal and plant health, as well as food safety; and supporting the implementation of selected productive projects in order to stimulate agribusiness development in rural areas.
    Administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the project, which commenced in April 2001, has been extended three times, and should be completed by May 2009. The extension of the project life to May is to facilitate the completion of activities and procurement procedures that are at advanced stages, and the final audit and termination of the project.
    These include the execution of a support service contract; continuation of the animal health public awareness campaign; support the recruitment of consultancy services for Phase Two of the National Animal Identification Programme; and complete the expansion of the fumigation facility at the Montego Bay Export Complex in St. James.
    Support efforts will also be provided for the adoption of the National Food Safety Policy; construction of a pepper/scallion mash semi-processing facility in Clarendon will be completed, so too the establishment and functioning of the investment centre to develop business plans and provide support to investors.
    Achievements under the project up to January 2009 included the strengthening of the delivery of support services to producers; strengthening and consolidating agricultural health and food safety services of both animal and plant health; and financing selected activities in high payoff productive projects for agricultural producers and exporters.
    Among the myriad of achievements under the project was the signing of 58 Memoranda of Understanding with Service Providers; three agricultural research stations were improved; 12 technical personnel were trained at degree levels and 166 in short courses; and field office facilities at the Agricultural Research and Development Division (ARDD) and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority were upgraded.
    In terms of strengthening agricultural health and food safety services, the animal health policy was expanded, clarified and adopted; the development of five animal-related legislation were advanced; the central animal diagnostic laboratory was upgraded; a national livestock identification programme pilot tested and 2,430 cattle tagged; an animal quarantine station repaired and upgraded; and approximately 80 veterinary officers, public health officers and other animal health workers were trained.
    Advancements within plant health were also attained with a policy for the sector being updated and operationalised; a plant health legislation was enacted and updated; an electronic plant health surveillance and pest response database installed in Kingston and Montego Bay; approximately 2,160 farmers were trained in plant health and cultivation culture; and plant fumigation facilities at the Norman Manley Airport in Kingston were expanded and upgraded.
    Under food safety, a national policy was established and adopted; food safety regulations examined; a permanent food safety secretariat was put in place; and a ‘One Stop Shop’ was established at the Port in Kingston to deal with food safety matters.
    The ASSP also initiated a US$6 million fund with 26 sub-projects approved as well as the completion of investment in 15 sub-projects and 24 productive projects.

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