JIS News

Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke, has said that the agricultural sector has seen marked improvements, with the sector being the main contributor to economic growth since the start of the year.
“This year, the Almighty has been good to us and agriculture is now on the rebound. So far this year, in the first quarter, agriculture grew by 24 per cent and in the second quarter ending June, agriculture grew by another 30 per cent. It has been the main contributor to the growth of the economy this year,” he stated.
Minister Clarke was giving the main address at the official opening of the 54th Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial Show on Aug.5 in May Pen, Clarendon.
According to Minister Clarke, banana production has rebounded to production levels before Hurricane Ivan, while plantains, fruits and vegetables were also showing increased levels of production.
“We have seen astronomical growth in the production of sweet potatoes; peppers and other condiments are also performing strongly. We expect a good coffee crop this year and already, I am told by the processors that we are going to outstrip many of the bumper years we’ve had in the past,” Minister Clarke said.
He informed that the government had stepped in to assist coffee farmers affected by Hurricane Ivan, who had not yet received any benefits from their insurance companies, by advancing $60 million to cover some of their claims and an additional $40 million in grant funding to help resuscitate their farms.
Cocoa farmers, he said, also received a boost, with a 100 per cent increase in the box price for cocoa, moving from $500 per box to $1,000 per box.
Minister Clarke said that while sugar cane production was still below par, the industry had shown a 22,000-tonne increase over last year, adding that new strategies were being implemented to turn the industry around, such as the use of ethanol and a new industry management structure.
Meanwhile, he said, “we have seen astronomical growth in goat production both in quantity and quality and remarkable strides in pig production again in quantity and quality.”
There were also positive developments in the honey industry, he said, with a doubling in production through the use of new technology; the training of some 28 young persons, who have been assisted with starter units; while a honey bottling plant would be commissioned during the week of August 13 to19.
In addition, the Agriculture Minister said that despite the problems in the ackee sector, production was on the increase, with imports to the United States to resume by September.
He said that the country had become self sufficient in the production of eggs and egg farmers were now in the process of establishing a liquid egg plant, which would reduce the level of importation of liquid eggs.In terms of poultry, he noted that, “we intend to help as many (poultry farmers) as we can get into production”, while pointing to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) assisted project, which is helping farmers to grow chickens in scientific and more sanitary conditions.
Turning to other areas, the Minister indicated that a niche market has been established in organic farming; a major $1 billion national irrigation expansion programme was underway; greenhouse technology was being embraced by farmers; lands are being made available for persons in the central regions of Manchester and St. Elizabeth to set up hydroponics farms; and the government’s forestry programmes were well underway. Mentioning the establishment of a state-of-the-art nursery at the Bodles Agricultural Research Station in Old Harbour, he said that the facility would provide seedlings for fruit tree crops such as June Plum, Ackee, Tamarind, Breadfruit, Cashew, Soursop, Sweetsop and Jackfruit. Minister Clarke also mentioned a $100 million programme being implemented by the government to deal with farm road repairs, while farmers would be assisted to acquire tractors and farm equipment through the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP). “All these things pulling together will go towards the advancement of the agricultural sector.agriculture is on the move,” he said, while noting that security of land tenure for farmers was also being dealt with. “By the end of August, we’ll be able to hand out some 3,000 titles to enable them to have a piece of paper to go the bank and say ‘this is mine’,” he said, adding that another 8,000 titles were being prepared for distribution.