Agriculture Minister Lauds ASSP Project


Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke has lauded the performance of the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP), noting that it has enhanced the delivery of support services to farmers and improved agricultural healthy and food safety systems.
“I am pleased with the performance of this project, as it moves into a second phase, which has been approved because of its outstanding success,” the Minister said during his contribution to the 2005/2006 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on June 7.
The ASSP, which was implemented four years ago on the basis of a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), has had much success, including enhancing the competitiveness of farmers, providing them with improved technologies and introducing an intensive training programme.
“The focus has been on groups that are implementing or will implement ASSP productive projects,” the Minister pointed out, adding that the training focused on areas such as group dynamics, leadership skills, crop production, pest and disease management. A total of 287 producers were trained during 2004/2005.
The project has enabled beneficiaries to increase levels of production and to improve on existing markets. Farmers have also been assisted to capitalize on new market opportunities and to launch new products, based on the services received.
ASSP has also provided for improvement of agricultural research stations and the training of technical personnel, with some $31 million spent on the civil works related to the refurbishing of office buildings, laboratories, housing for animals and irrigation systems, as well as procuring new office laboratory and farm equipment for the Bodles and Montpelier research stations.
Further budgetary provision has been made for improvements at Bodles during the current financial year. The scope of work will include the design, supply and installation of an irrigation system at a cost of US$234,416; renovation of the piggery at a cost of US$197,312; upgrading of the dairy barn at a cost of US$20,000; improvements to the animal nutrition laboratory at US$100,000 and overhaul of the abattoir at US$50,000.
In respect to the strengthening of agricultural health and food safety systems, Minister Clarke informed that several systems had been implemented to combat the numerous diseases that threaten to wipe out crops and animal species. One such system is the Plant Health Surveillance and Pest Response System (PHS&PRS), which is an early warning system for identifying and responding to threats or actual incursions of dangerous plant pests. A total of 14 officers were trained in the PHS&PRS database in February of this year.
Noting that the implementation of the system was very important in ensuring Jamaica’s competitiveness in the new rules-based environment created by the World Trade Organization (WTO), Mr. Clarke said the country had a responsibility to protect the world from the exportation of pests and disease. It is in this regard, that the ASSP has also facilitated a consultancy to enhance the methodologies for plant import/export certification and inspection.
The consultant has developed operation and procedural manuals covering areas such as inspection procedures; sampling methods; basic pest risk assessment and record keeping. He noted that the manuals were compliant with international standards and guidelines.
As for the animal health component, Minister Clarke informed that a national livestock identification programme had been established in response to the threats of diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease.
Additionally, the ASSP has initiated the animal identification consultancy to work on establishing adequate surveillance systems.
Turning to the aspect of food safety, the Agriculture Minister noted that a draft food safety policy, concept paper and business plan have been completed and a national consultation on the policy was held in October 2004. The ASSP has also developed a memorandum of understanding among the Ministries of Agriculture, Commerce, Science and Technology and Health, aimed at coordinating the agricultural and food safety activities within those entities.
The ASSP project has also facilitated the financing of high pay off productive projects by providing technical and financial support for the implementation of ventures, which are market driven. Mr. Clarke explained that to date, 18 productive projects have been approved and were at various stages of implementation and that the total cost of these projects was just over $275 million. “A total of 567 farmers are direct beneficiaries, while some 2,555 persons will be employed,” he said.
The projects include the pig improvement, tilapia expansion, escallion production and a honey-marketing project, which is being undertaken by the All Island Bee Farmers Association.
Meanwhile, some 51 farmers are to benefit from hay, condiment and vegetable production products, which will be undertaken on 120 hectares of land in Amity Hall, St. Catherine.
Minister Clarke said the venture is expected to cost some $46 million of which the ASSP would contribute $31 million. It is expected that 235 persons will receive employment under the project.

JIS Social