The Government’s Agricultural Business Information System (ABIS) provided the information to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to identify the current oversupply of fresh vegetables in the market and raise an alert.
Marketing Consultant with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Dr. Derrick Deslandes, speaking at a JIS Think Tank news briefing, recently, said that after technical crews went into the field and collated and analyzed the data, an oversupply was detected.
“We have an internal document that predicts how much tomato we have in January, February and March, and we have a rolling three-month forecast. So, every month, we roll three months forward to say, based on what we’re seeing now, we expect X amount in January, X amount in February and X amount in March,” Dr. Deslandes explained.
“That’s one of the signals, and that’s what we picked up. Even though the prices had not yet reflected that there was an impending problem, the data that we had showed that there was going to be an increased level of output in January, February and March,” he added.
ABIS is a web-based information system, developed by RADA, which provides information on crops, livestock and agricultural production, markets and stakeholders, to support the business of agriculture. It provides data to boost the capacity and competitiveness of stakeholders, and better measurement of capacity and performance to Government, agro-processors, food retailers, restaurateurs and the consuming public.
To date close to 150, 000 of the 200,000 farmers the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) estimates islandwide have been registered. They ideally call in to RADA indicating acreage of production and crop.
However, according to Dr. Deslandes, the programme has encountered some challenges, including noncompliance on the part of some farmers, uncooperativeness and other mitigating factors.
“We have 120 extension officers dealing with over 200,000 farmers, so it’s difficult to cover every inch of the country, to know when a farmer has started to produce. Most times, farmers don’t tell anything and they don’t want you to know, and when you ask them, they run you from the gate. So, it’s not always easy to get the information,” he pointed out.
In determining what the output will be, a yield has to be worked out and the way to do it is by way of a ‘sample reaping’.
“It’s not easy for you just walk into a man’s field and take a sample reaping, but you really want to have a sense of how much acreage is in the ground and, if you use a factor, you can predict that in three months time that is what will be coming out,” he said.
Dr. Deslandes reiterated his appeal, in the face of the oversupply of vegetables, for agro-processers, food retailers, restaurateurs and the consuming public to purchase more vegetables with the prices are lower. This would give farmers an opportunity, at least, to recover some of the cost of production, he said.
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