Agriculture Minister Signs Letter of Intent to Boost Production


Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton and Country Representative of the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), Cynthia Currie, have signed a Letter of Intent for a project, to enhance the country’s agricultural production.
The signing for the project – Improving Jamaica’s Agricultural Productivity – took place today (November 25), at the Canadian High Commission, in Kingston.
The project will span three years, ending in December 2011. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will provide a grant of Can.$4.9 million (J$350 million) and the Government of Jamaica will provide the equivalent of approximately Can.$1.5 million. IICA will provide technical advice and will be CIDA’s executive agency.
Its stated aims include increasing the productivity levels of small scale greenhouse producers, to meet the demands of the hospitality and retail markets; rehabilitating basic infrastructure and improving the fishing and environmental practices of fisher-folk, in keeping with the Government’s programme for the sustainable development of the fisheries sub sector.
“In both of the sub-sectors under reference, the focus of the project, which will be implemented by the IICA, will be on research and development, technical skills training and capacity building. The components of the greenhouse technology support are: pilot research; training and commercial development,” Dr Tufton said.
The Minister explained that under the green house component of the project, four mini greenhouses operated by the Ministry’s Green House Unit, would be established for the production of tomato, sweet pepper, lettuce and hot pepper.
The four facilities will be used for pilot research, to be conducted by the Ministry’s Research and Development Division, so as to determine the appropriate conditions and technologies that are to be applied in respect of each crop. The findings from the crop trials will inform the development of technology packs, to be disseminated to participating farmers.
“More importantly, this research facility will continue to be utilised by the Ministry of Agriculture on an ongoing basis, so as to enable green house farmers throughout Jamaica to benefit from the results of the trials,” Dr. Tufton said.
Under the training segment, 40 small scale farmers, four specialists and four Extension Officers, will receive training in greenhouse establishment, as well as in best production practices, harvesting and post harvesting techniques. Four post-harvest packaging facilities will also be built under the project. These will be leased to private sector persons, with minority Government input.
For commercial development, the 40 farmers trained will manage the greenhouses, which will be established in two clusters, each equipped with post harvesting facilities.
“It is expected that under this project, four acres of green house capacity will be established and 40 farmers will benefit from a greenhouse at an average size of 4,500 square feet. It is estimated that production in lettuce, tomato and sweet pepper will increase in year one by 331 tonnes and the annual throughput of two packing houses will exceed 30,00 tonnes of vegetables,” Dr Tufton explained.
He also noted that in addition to the participating farmers and their families, members of the two targeted clusters would also benefit indirectly from the project, based on the income earning opportunities, which will be generated from the construction of the green houses, together with the support services, which will be part of each cluster.
For the fisheries component, Dr Tufton explained that focus would be on research and development; rehabilitation of beaches; and training and capacity building.
“In an effort to allow our depleted fishing stock to replenish itself, three marine sites will be selected and artificial reef structures as well as lobster sanctuaries will be established, to facilitate lobster generation and reef rehabilitation,” the Minister said.
He pointed out further, that six beaches which had been damaged during Hurricane Dean, would be selected as demonstration sites for restoration work. Dr. Tufton noted that the secondary aim of this rehabilitation exercise, would be to engage the commitment of the fisher-folk in the respective areas, to participate in training, leading to more hygienic and environmentally sustainable fishing practices.
“The rehabilitation exercise will include the upgrading of the existing sanitation facilities and the construction of the hurricane proof storage facilities,” Dr. Tufton said.
Also under the fishing component, a comprehensive training programme in appropriate fisheries management practices, will also be established, targeted at members of the fishing co-operatives as well as the staff of the Ministry’s Fisheries Division. Negative fishing practices and the ways in which these damage and inhibit fish production, will be among the areas to be explored in the programme.
Beneficiaries under the project’s fishing component will include fisher-folk, vendors and fish processors in the six designated communities, and their families.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Currie pointed out that at the end of the project in December 2011, the quality of the produce on the local market would be of superior quality and as a result, provide consumers with quality and value for money.
“We also anticipate an increase in Agri food exports and an increase in foreign exchange earnings for the country. Most importantly, we hope that through this project, Jamaica will be producing much more local produce and as a result, will rely far less on imports,” she added.

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